News & Articles

Face to face is dying

Your board hate it, the press pick on it and so many lament the attrition rates.

But you know the truth.

Face to face acquisition numbers were up last year.

You know that nearly 83% of all new regular givers come from face to face and there are more than 27 charities growing their income dramatically.

You know attrition rates vary by charity from 36% in year one to 66%. You even know the five year value of a regular giver acquired by face to face is $730 (2008 recruits).

You know that non face to face donors are harder to get – but you know they are worth a lot more when you get them.

How do you know?

You read it here: But don’t take my word for it. Get the data for yourself for free. Join Pareto Benchmarking.

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Five Key Insights from Pareto Fundraising Benchmarking 2015


1. Direct mail acquisition has been transformed and reached a new level

Annual new cash donor acquisition increased from around 250,000-280,000 in the first half of the last decade but leapt up to over 600,000 by 2013.

This new level of donor involvement has been driven by direct mail (especially through the embracing of swaps and premiums). Also non direct mail donors increased from around 100,000 per annum to 200,000 per annum across the decade.

This is great news for bequest and major donor fundraisers too, since the most significant source of bequests (that we have any control over) and people giving over $1000 is cash recruits.


New Cash Recruits by Channel_2015


2. Really great insights into emergency donor retention

This chart shows the income in the previous twelve months, every month from 2009 to 2014. So, for example the charities in the study raised about $875m in the 12 months to December 2012.

The income leap from January 2009 to February 2009, and the subsequent year is mostly due to emergency donors (bush fire). The huge drop in February 2010 is the fact that these donors were not retained very well.

Compare it to the slow increase in the dark green (2010) income. This reflects new donors coming on board in that year, and the slow decrease in the amount of money they gave in subsequent years due to their natural attrition. There is no steep drop.


Rolling 12 month income


3.  … And the same chart gives us insights into the long term value of donors

You can see that donors recruited before 2005 (the bottom layer) were giving about $350m in the 12 months to December 2009. Look to the right and they were still giving over $250m in the 12 months to December 2014. Wonderful loyal donors! Great for presenting to board, demonstrating the long term ongoing value of new donors.

Finally, this chart shows, despite that ongoing income, we need to still acquire new donors. If no charities had recruited any donors after 2011, the top three layers (2012,2013,2014) wouldn’t exist. Charities would have raised just $625m instead of over $1bn.


4. Age is really important in all aspects of fundraising



This shows very starkly that older donors tend to give more* than younger donors. You can also see that whilst credit card payers are more likely to become regular givers too (the middle blue colour), cheque donors give more cash.

*The 5Yr Cash Ratio shows the 5 year value of a donor/ group of donors expressed as a ratio of the first gift (calculated as the total given over a 5yr period divided by the first amount)

Even in young people fundraising (face to face) we can see that older donors are more financially valuable to a charity.




5. Face to face still rules the roost on volumes… but has the worst retention

With 300,000 of about 370,000 new regular givers coming from face to face, the channel still rocks, adding more ongoing income to charities than anything else.

It does have the worst retention, but I would rather have 50% of 300,000 (150,000) donors giving in year two than 75% of 70,000 (52,500). Even factoring in costs, face to face makes more net income. Of course, I’d rather have both!



Superb Customer Care: I am Great!

Well, according to Soi Dog Foundation I am – and so are all their other donors.

I got this email (click to enlarge) thanking me for my support; it has a lovely video and great copy.

And then when I shared it on Facebook, it switched to an involvement device and asked my friends to ‘Click Here To Find Out How I Helped Save Thunder’s Life’.
Yes I did it!  Clicking will take you to the letter I received.  At first I thought it was a shame it doesn’t say ‘your friend did this’ and then ask my friend to support them.  But then I forgot how clever Soi Dog are.  I know they will be tracking that cookie and ensuring my friend gets plenty of opportunities to support Soi Dog.

Great stuff Soi Dog. And you too can see the full text of the letter.  Just Click Here To Find Out How I Helped Save Thunder’s Life.

Sean Triner

Co- Founder


Direct mail acquisition has been transformed and reached a new level…

Annual new cash donor acquisition increased from around 250,000-280,000 in the first half of the last decade but leapt up to over 600,000 by 2013.

This new level of donor involvement has been driven by direct mail (especially through the embracing of swaps and premiums). Also non direct mail donors increased from around 100,000 per annum to 200,000 per annum across the decade.

This is great news for bequest and major donor fundraisers too, since the most significant source of bequests (that we have any control over) and people giving over $1000 is cash recruits.

New Cash Recruits by Channel_2015

Some quick tips on fundraising landing pages

There are lots of good tips on landing pages when you search the web but it seems not enough. Lots of people are wanting specific tips on fundraising landing pages.

So here is a six minute short video for you…

The landing page is not the end of the journey for a potential supporter, it is part of the journey.  And it needs to work really hard to ‘close the deal’.

In the end, the most important thing is the brilliant proposition or offer.

After that, you can improve conversion rates with some simple techniques featured in the video.

If you want to know more, and are based in Europe, Africa, the Americas or New Zealand I hope you are coming to one of the webinars below.

People in Australia and Asia are welcome, but it is an early morning or late night for you!


Upcoming Webinars: 

I will be presenting a webinar (actually three, for different timezones) in early September about how to acquire donors on Facebook.  I hope you can come! 

These ones are aimed at people in Europe and Americas (don’t worry, people in Asian, Australia, I’ll repeat the webinar later – though nighthawks are welcome!). You can register here by clicking on the date that suits you: 7th Sept –  6am Sydney, 4pm New York, 9pm London. 10th Sept – 9am New York, 2pm London, 11pm Sydney. 17th Sept – 7am Sydney, 9am Auckland, 2pm LA, 6pm Rio, 5pm New York, 10pm London.


Writing Your Call To Action

So I read a pretty good call to action written by one of my favourite clients the other day. It said:

“If we act now, we can save them.” 

The strengths of the line include its brevity, the use of short powerful words, the urgency and the fact that it is a call to action. (There is still a lot of direct response writing where calls to action are apologetically buried so deep it’s hard to find them – despite the clear evidence this has a negative impact on response.)

BUT, for mine there are three points of weakness in that line:

“If”, “we” and “can”.

“If” suggests that not acting is a reasonable option.

“We” is impersonal. It’s not specifically and uniquely about the reader. It also presumes that others might be doing the acting, so therefore the reader doesn’t have to. This approach weakens the responsibility and power of the individual.

“Can” is a monumental pain in the collective neck of fundraisers and there are times we just have to use it. In this instance there is no (real life) guarantee of saving, so it’s misleading to say “will save”. However, in a line like this, you can dispense with the “can/will” problem altogether.

A stronger line would be:  Take action now to save them.   

Personal and direct. And active. If your not-for-profit direct response writing doesn’t have these vital characteristics, you’re probably missing out on opportunities to fix the world.

It’s so easy to fall into the trap of weakening language. Scan your copy for these OK-but-not-that-powerful examples:

“Let’s all act now …”

“But if we do …”

“Why not donate today and …”

Use these softer asks occasionally in some circumstances. But most of the time – I’ll take a stab and say at least 75% – go for personal, direct and active.

Especially in short form copy on facebook posts or banner ads or reminder emails.

Especially in activism work. When I read half-hearted copy, it makes me think the organization is half-hearted about the work it does. “We really wouldn’t mind if you could take the time to consider fixing the planet a little bit” doesn’t exactly flag passion and drive.

And especially in emergencies. Think about it. In real life you don’t say “Oh! The child is on fire. Shall we get together and do something to help?”

So how do you fix impersonal, wishy-washy and/or flaccid writing? You find ways to make it more personal, direct and active. Or at least two of those three things.

Instead of saying “But if we act now…”

Write “Please act now…”


Will you act now… Personalised?


“Take action now to …”


“The child/planet/animals will continue to suffer/die/be slaughtered by narcissistic dentists if you don’t act now.”

Finally, a quick word on collective action. There is undoubtedly something powerful in the idea of joining a group of other people who care about the same stuff as you, and have a good chance of forcing change through collective action. It’s a good thing to remind donors/supporters/prospects of this fact.

But again, write it so it is personal and direct and active. Let’s have another crack at “But if we act now” “We can do it” etc. etc.

Try these more personal, direct, active options instead:

Add your name now, Personalised, and become part of a powerful lobbying force.”


By taking action now, you will build an influential …”


Sign the petition today to join other outraged activists from around the world and put an end to this …”

Sometimes weak writing comes from a place of squeamishness about asking others to do something.

It shouldn’t.

The work our sector does is positive and powerful. If you’re writing to get support so you can do more of it, you’re giving your readers a magnificent opportunity to make a personal, direct and active impact on their world.


Mary Anne Plummer Creative Director Pareto Fundraising

The first ever conference on face to face

Pareto doesn’t ‘do’ face to face.  We help charities with materials, strategy, budgeting, monitoring and working with boards to invest in it, but we don’t do it.

So why on earth are we Pareto bods fans of the technique that so many love to hate, and which ‘competes’ for acquisition budget with us?


image1 PT

Caption: As you can see from our benchmarking data – face to face does well and continues to grow.

Simple: because, for most charities, it works. Whilst face to face acquired regular givers have the highest attrition and lowest life time value of the main types of regular giver, there are also many, many more of them.

Attrition from face to face is worse than other regular giving methods.  But in 2014 there were about 250,000 new face to face recruits across our benchmarked charities, and less than 50,000 from other sources.


image2 PT

Caption: Attrition and volumes of new F2F donors.


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Caption: Attrition and volumes of new NON-F2F donors.

That’s why we are happy to send Sean off to the first ever Face to Face conference in April 2016. He’ll be doing the closing plenary and a few workshops but he wants to be learning from the experts too.


image4 PT

“There is already a healthy line up of speakers who are going to be at the conference and a lot of information about face to face around the world. We tend to be a little myopic about our programs – Australia and NZ are buoyant face to face markets for many charities but some are struggling.  Child sponsorship numbers don’t seem to be increasing and attrition tends to continue to increase. I am doing a couple of little sessions, but I have already booked my ticket with a view to learning as much as I can how face to face is working around the world – who has made integrating digital, TV and outdoor with face to face for example. Any charity with an acquisition budget in excess of a $200,000 should be sending someone along to get better value from their acquisition.” Sean Triner

It’ll cost you about $2,400 to fly there plus $2,800 for the conference ticket and accommodation but the $5,200 could prove good value if you learn how to reduce attrition by a fraction of a percent.  Put another way – that’s about the cost of 15-20 new regular givers in todays market.  Pretty good value if you learn something.

Register here if you want to get along to find out more about F2F worldwide…


The Public Fundraising Regulatory Association – Up and Running

The PFRA is now up and running in Australia and more than 45 charities and agencies have now committed themselves to adopting and being held to a basic standard for face to face fundraising.


Face to face fundraising is an absolutely vital fundraising method for charities in Australia and globally. PFRA members alone inspired more than 280,000 new donors to commence a regular gift in 2014. These donors and the hundreds of thousands more who started giving through face to face in the last fifteen years, contribute hundreds of millions of dollars every year to critical programs.


With so much at stake it is really important that we look after everyone involved in making sure face to face works properly. The agencies look after their fundraisers, the charities look after their donors, but until now, no one has been looking after a very important group – the people that actually let us fundraise.


A face to face fundraiser can’t just pick any street corner that they like the look of and start fundraising. That may have been case in 1996 but since then things have changed dramatically. Local authorities and their staff are absolutely critical partners in our fundraising, without them we wouldn’t be able to operate. One of the PFRA’s highest priorities is to build these relationships, one council at a time across as many of the 561 local authorities in Australia as we can.


It’s been a busy four weeks since the PFRA started work. In that time we’ve already been able to represent members in meetings with local and state governments and we’ve introduced ourselves to the ACNC as well.


Life is what happens when you are making plans, and while we develop PFRA’s long-term capacity, we are also responding to immediate issues. Fundraising regulation is “in play” and we are already engaged in responding to regulatory changes in NSW and Qld, coordinating our responses with the FIA.


A message we’ve heard repeatedly is that there is a there is a big gap in the public perception between the amazing good that charities do and what is often ignored: that this good work can only happen if it is properly funded. The charitable sector as a whole faces a challenge to explain that without being someone be asked for money, 90% of donations would never be made. The PFRA’s message is “we need to be able to ask for money” but “when we do ask for money, we will be respectful and professional”.


We are getting the message out there one conversation at a time:


First: “we need to be able to ask for money, if we can’t ask for money then the good work we do will stop.”


Second: “We will only ever ask you for money in a respectful and polite way. Let us know if we get that wrong and we will do something about it”.


This is the balance that we need to keep between the duty of charities to ask for money and the way in which the community expect to be treated when they are being asked.


Our next task is to establish that minimum standard by which we can judge whether we have kept the right balance or not. Armed with that Standard and with a set of self-regulatory processes, PFRA is be able to represent members to the public, government and media as a credible and effective self-regulator.


Membership of the PFRA works for members at a wide range of levels. PFRA is helping to solve immediate day to day issues, developing responses to legislative changes that could have profound impacts on fundraising and also able to act as a positive public voice for face to face fundraising when public or media scrutiny is focussed on our work.


Australian charities need face to face fundraising to continue to be a viable way of fundraising in the long term. Charities have invested in face to face and rely on the income stream it generates. Membership of the PFRA is the insurance policy that charities can take out to protect that investment and to show that they understand their obligation to the communities that fundraisers visit every day.


For more information about PFRA membership: call or email Paul Tavatgis: 0499 006 767 /


Published 8th July, 2015




Finding committed donors from disaster responders

A full step by step guide to finding committed donors from disaster responders is now available. Please click here to order one! A devastating earthquake hits Nepal.  Many people are killed, and tens of thousands are without shelter, clean water and food.  International organisations from nation states, UN and NGOs respond fast.


People all over the world see the disaster on TV, are stirred emotionally and want to help.



They want to do something to help.  So they do what they can – and make a donation.

These are beautiful human beings that want to help others.  They want to help strangers, often on the other side of the world in place they have never been and will never go.  But they care.

Some of these people are not ‘traditional’ donors.  They have not responded to other media.  Jeff Brooks, author of the best fundraising blog Future Fundraising Now wrote in his recent blog…

“New donors you get through disaster fundraising will have terrible retention rates — tens of percentage points less than you’re used to. That’s because you get a lot of younger and less-committed donors who have no intention of ever giving again. There’s not much you can do about it other than avoid throwing good money after bad.”

I agree with his first bit, but not his last.  You can do something about it. Our latest study of Australian donors shows that the average regular giver (sustainer in American) is much younger than your traditional cash donor.

Mean ages are around 43 and 72 respectively.  So, if emergency donors are younger they could be good regular giving prospects.



Indeed, they are.  Many charities spend lots of money generating ‘leads’ for calling people to get regular gifts.  They are pleased if they get 6% conversion on the phone.  This usually means the donor acquisition costs are cheaper than their normal largest source of new donors, face to face.

But with emergency donor conversion in excess of 7% after a couple of weeks, and the leads effectively ‘free’ we should be getting even better returns.

Charities who are already working on regular giver (sustainer) calling programs will find specialist agencies can quickly switch calls to emergency donors for a better return.  If this could be done within days I imagine 10% response of those we speak to should be achievable.

But we can do even more – calling and emailing people and asking them for a second donation makes a lot of sense too. And it is worth testing a second gift ask, then a regular gift ask Vs. straight to regular giving.

In lieu of established testing, I propose this donor journey for new donors

  1. Charity appeals for funds in media: Press ads, social media, digital advertising, TV ads, TV presenters appeal directly, Phone, direct mail, email, radio, through churches, temples and through corporate supporters.
  2. Donations come in through these channels:
  3. Online
  4. Post
  5. Phone
  6. Fax (yes, there are still some!)
  7. Collection points (E.g. banks)
  8. Thank quickly – email, explaining that the donors money is having an impact straight away.  DEBIT FAST. It doesn’t make sense to have an emergency appeal then not debit as quick as possible.
  9. Follow up all donations that meet a certain criteria with a second cash gift ask within hours – whilst the media frenzy is still happening
  10. Follow up AGAIN as media dies down, or within ten days – whichever is sooner, and ask for a regular gift (sustainer).
  11. Thanking and updating throughout by email.
  12. Use retargeting and social media to ‘follow’ these donors with ads and posts relevant to the emergency. And post emergency, keep them in mind for acquisition campaigns.

When the Nepal earthquake hit I was working on an interactive article giving more detail on this plan.

I decided to make this available as a step by step guide, which will include how to work with the data, make the most out of the targeting, how to use social information, lot of examples and more.

If you want the big step by step article please click here.


Data, Belief & Vision


Data, data, data. It seems like the world is going mad for data. Data emerges when we gather together facts or statistics, then classify them into meaningful subsets, with a view to better understanding a particular phenomena. It’s a useful business tool, particularly as a fundraiser, because the more you understand your donors, the easier it becomes to target the ones who will help you further your cause.

For a moment, let’s take a more expanded perspective on data, by bringing time into the equation. Time, according to the dictionary definition on my apple is “the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present and future regarded as a whole”. The keywords being the past, present and future.

Data, as a tool, is only ever going to provide information about the past. When we pause and reflect on that for a moment, we can see that despite all the rich stories we can derive from data, it is only offering 33% of our narrative. So where does the other 66% come from?

What the mind chooses to do with the data is based on how it is presently perceiving it. And at this point, we need to understand how the next 33%, belief, plays it’s role in the creation of strategy. A belief is something which the mind holds to be true. Our beliefs, which are largely subconscious, help create meaning about the world around us, by placing information into ‘true’ and ‘false’ boxes.

The challenge here, in relation to your fundraising strategy, is simple. If the data presents new information that is contradictory to the current beliefs about the right/best/quickest way to raise funds, then the mind will often reject it. Unless we are willing to stop and consciously challenge our beliefs, then often we end up seeing today, as though it were yesterday. And in a rapidly evolving and competitive marketplace, this can be destructive. If you’ve ever had a water-tight, evidence based business case rejected by your CEO/CFO, because they didn’t agree with the fundraising strategy, you’ll understand this dynamic first hand.

Making any kind of make progress, requires us to develop an innovative strategy. And the inner work that underpins all innovative strategic plans is having the courage and openness to challenge our existing beliefs. Only when we do this, can we consciously see and leverage the insights that new data presents to us. To get your innovative thinking hat on, try out these questions:

What did we used to believe was true about (data set)? How does this new data change our existing story about (data set)? How does this affect things for us now? What do we believe we can achieve by using this new data to change our future? What do we believe we still cannot achieve? What new beliefs must we develop to boldly leverage the insights in this (data set)?

And now onto the final 33% of our story which is how we create new futures. All great leaders have a grand and noble vision of a better future. No-one ever changed the world by playing it safe. And no-one ever changed the world without having a clear image about the type of world they wanted to be a part of.

And here’s how the 33%, holistically grows into 100%. As a fundraising leader, it’s not enough to gather data about your donors. It’s also not enough to simply think about the data insights. Equally it wouldn’t be enough to have an exciting vision, without data about your past and awareness of the present market conditions. You need all three. Data, to inform you about the past. Vision to channel your passion towards a future you want to create. And belief in the insights, yourself and your team to turn your ideas into a strategic roadmap. With these elements you can build bridges from the past, through the present and into the future.

To help you construct a powerful fundraising vision of the future, connect with Nick at Linked In and then download the PDF exercise entitled Fundraising Vision Builder, which is in the summary of his linked in profile. By attending the upcoming benchmarking day, you’ll gain data about the past. And the middle bit? Well, that one is up to you.

Nick Freedman is a not for profit leadership teacher, who has helped 1000s of people lead their teams more consciously. For more information about his upcoming NFP leadership program visit