Thursday, February 28, 2013

New breakthrough direct mail strategy increases response rate from 0.50% to 0.75%

Now only 92.5 out of 100 throw the letter out

Metro’s largest charity has announced a major breakthrough in their direct mail campaign. In an article written by their direct mail consultants, Big Invoice, the Metro Foundation Trust announced a staggering 50% increase in responses to their fundraising appeal letters they send out every quarter.

“We’ve really come up with something here,” said Trust CEO Dibble Brewer. “In one mailing we’ve been able to increase our response rate 50%. That’s unheard of in charities like ours. Now, instead of 95 people out of every 100 throwing out our letter, now only 92.5 are. That’s an astronomical change.”

The dramatic increase came when the Trust hired Big Invoice to review and improve its direct mail campaign which raises almost as much it costs to run. Big Invoice brought in a crew of consultants who took a look at every aspect of their direct mail – database, writing, response methods, gifts, how much the Trust could afford to pay them and more.

The $50,000 review came up with a 2000-page report that recommended that the entire direct mail program be taken over and run by Big Invoice.

“They made the case that their expertise was so much better than ours,” said Brewer. “They could use words like LYBUNT and SYBUNT and actually know what they meant. And they were fluent in the archaic language of US postal regulations, which we could never understand. It seem to be the thing to do.”

With Big Invoice at the helm, direct mail letters became more polished. They were twice as long, had more stuff stuffed into them and came with new ideas, like free address labels for donors. The first mailing of the new letters last month went to 25,000 homes in Metro, where most of it ended up in the garbage except for 1,875 people who filled out the response card and mailed it back.

The new letter was also able to raise the average gift from $15.00 to $17.50.

After The Trust paid for the Big Invoice mailing and factored in the amazing increase in response and the larger average gift it actually broke even. But Brewer says the change was still a success in many ways.

“We actually reduced the amount of waste we create in the landfill. That makes us one of the most efficient charities in Metro because the amount of people who throw out their letters is like 98 or 98 out of 100. We’re much more greener.”

“And we’ve been able to reach more people with our message. That’s got to count for something.”

Brewer says they plan more innovation in future mailings. Big Invoice is planning to create extremely sticky envelopes that will be 30% harder to throw out than previous direct mail letters.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Average age of “Young Donors Club” is 70

The leaders of the Young Donors Club

Metro’s largest charity has started a new club to help create the philanthropists of the future. The Metro Community Foundation’s “Young Donor’s Club” will help the charity chart a new course of giving into the near future.

“We’re very proud of our new young donor’s initiative. These people are our future. And the future of our community,” said Foundation CEO Turner Snidely. “We’re really proud of the young people we’ve been able to attract to the program. Some area actually younger than 75.”

The club, which will meet weekly at the Dibble Brewer Nursing Home across from the Foundation offices, will help invigorate the charity’s flagging donations.  The leaders of the group, Col. James Turkey (Retired), 71, and Mrs. June Youngblood, 70, were selected after an exhaustive search throughout the Foundation’s database for young donors.

“We selected two of our most energetic, young and vibrant leaders. We’re hoping that James and June will be able to reach a whole new group of donors to support our programs and help the community,” said Snidely.

“We’re getting young and hip,” he said.

Youngblood, whose husband was a long-time donor to the Foundation before he died two years ago, says she thinks it’s the responsibility of her generation to stand up for community institutions like the Foundation.

“Even though I’m in a nursing home now, the Foundation convinced me that this is our time. We’ve let the older generation run things far too long. It’s time to we younger people step up to the plate and do our bit,” she said.

Turkey, who suffers from Dementia, was unavailable for comment, but released a hand-written note calling on all 70-somethings to join the Young Donors Club, especially if they were healthy and still mobile. He also asked for someone to tell him who won the Second World War.

Already, more than two dozen young donors have expressed an interest in the program. Many of them were beneficiaries of the Foundation’s senior’s community exercise programs at the local YMCA.

“The Club will be working on how to attract younger donors to the Foundation,” said Snidely. “So far, they’ve come with an idea of a sock hop at the community centre, lawn bowling, knitting parties and putting slogans on those prescription boxes that tell seniors which drugs to take on which day. It’s a great start.”

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

47 local charities mistakenly have gala fundraiser all on the same night

You're invited...47 times!

The leaders of some of Metro’s largest charities are wondering why there were 47 gala fundraising events last night in the city.

For some reason, each charity picked exactly the same night to hold their annual fundraising gala dinner. Even worse, three were held at the same downtown hotel. Preliminary reports from all 47 charities is that attendance at their events was way down from last year and that most raised far less than in previous years. It’s left charity leaders scratching their heads.

“I can’t believe that we all had our gala dinners on the same night,” said Peter Snidely, CEO of the Metro Trust, who had a Brazilian Mardi Gras-themed dinner to raise money for their social service programs. “This is obviously the fault of other charities for picking our date. We always pick the same date every year. Always. Except last year. But other than that and the one year we didn’t have it, always!”

At the Community Foundation of Metro, Executive Director Dibble Brewer said the date for their Las Vegas-themed gala was announced more than a year ago.

“We had absolutely no idea other charities were using our night for their gala dinners, too,” said Brewer. “Funny, though. Now that I recall, we had a hard time getting a band and flowers.”

Some donors say there were warning signs months ago. Philanthropists like Sid and Ethel Moneybags said in an interview that they told local charities that they had received 32 different invitations for a fundraising event that evening. They even called a few charities and told them about it.

“The manager we talked to at the hospital foundation just shrugged it off by saying she imagine we received 32 invitations for dinner every night,” said Sid Moneybags.

The gala mix-up may be the reason why local charities were complaining earlier this year about a lack of volunteers. A group of charities held a press conference three months ago to plead with the public for more people to become event volunteers.

“We’re all facing a critical shortage of volunteers to run our fundraising events. For some reason, the numbers of people we use to help program and lead things like gala dinners has decreased dramatically in the last few months. We’re not sure why,” said the group in a media release at the time. “It could be that the people of Metro just don’t care.”

The 47 gala dinners might also explain recent complaints by Metro business leaders that charities were making too many demands on them.

“This is probably why my hardware store go hit up for 30 different auction items and 22 sponsorships and why we sold out of duct tape and plastic garland a few days ago,” said Chamber of Commerce President Frank Bigsales.

The big winner of the evening appears to be the local university string quartet, which did seven back-to-back recitals at different fundraising galas.

“We told them that we were going from one gala to another, but they just all ignored us. Several of them said it didn’t matter since their gala was going to be much better than everyone else’s,” said Ludwig Von Beethoven, leader of the group.

In response to the mess, charity leaders says they will keep the date of all future galas a secret and only reveal them to donors 48 hours before they happen.

In the meantime, the charities asked donors and the public to focus instead on the 22 curling bonspiels and 38 car washes they have coming up this weekend.

Monday, February 18, 2013

US Special Forces strike blow against terrorism by capturing al-Qaeda’s top fundraiser

Rare shot of Drumming and Osama BinLaden together in a direct mail appeal last year.

Pentagon sources say US special forces struck another powerful blow against the al-Qaeda terrorist network by capturing the group’s top fundraiser on a golf course near Orlando, Florida in the early hours of this morning.

A high-ranking military official said the action, code named Operation Tax Receipt, saw SEAL teams land near an exclusive golf club and then apprehend their target – Dennis Drumming, the Executive Director of the al-Qaeda Foundation and the number 27 man in the terrorist network.

Drumming, a long-time university fundraiser, took over the Foundation two years ago after a drone strike killed the last Executive Director in Pakistan. Experts say the secretive and cunning Drumming brought a new kind of fundraising to the organization.

“al-Qaeda knew they had to take action when their corporate donations starting falling,” said a Pentagon source. “So they changed tactics. The result was a much more sophisticated fundraising organization.”

It started by hiring one of New York’s top fundraising consulting firms to do a worldwide campaign evaluation study. Then a national search for a new Foundation leader followed, which selected Drumming over 47 other applicants. Drumming then set about creating a modern fundraising organization, including buying swank offices in Miami Beach, hiring fashion-runway models to be receptionists and buying a complicated, overly-expensive fundraising software system that was practically impenetrable.

“We had our best hackers working on that database for nearly a year and they couldn’t break it. It was so difficult and annoying to use that not even the Foundation knew how to operate it. That’s why we couldn’t hack it. Genius,” said the source.

In the take-down, Drumming, who was on a golf date with three prospective major donors at the time, was surprised as he scored par on yet another round of the golf course. His capture led SEAL Teams to a nearby office building in Orlando where an entire annual giving direct mail operation was blown-up. A major gifts cell that operated out of a coffeehouse around the corner was put out of action with drone strikes. Sources say major intel was gathered at both locations, including al-Qaeda’s giving pyramid, details about their new capital campaign, copies of their annual report and their planned giving brochures.

“The information we gleamed from this operation is priceless. For the first time ever, we’ve got a clear picture of everything that this Foundation is doing…even the stupid things they do, like their mediocre strategic plan and their squabbles over office space. It’s all here.”

Drumming and the estimated 30 other al-Qaeda fundraising operatives netted in the raid are now en route to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for interrogations by officials with the FBI, CIA and Blackbaud and Sage.  They hope that he will lead them to al-Qaeda leaders, including those who were supposed to visit the Orlando area for the Foundation AGM next month.

Meantime, a spokesman for the Foundation says their fundraising operations will continue unabated and urged followers to join them on Facebook.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Charity can’t decide whether annual report should be a glossy whitewash of the truth or just something icky that like a cold sore or a pimple on your nose

Scene from Last year's Annual Report -- Too much?

Metro’s largest charity is having a hard time deciding what this year’s annual report should look like. The Metro Community Foundation has another annual report due in June and can’t decide whether it should be propaganda or just something icky to be avoided, like a cold sore or a pimple on one’s nose.

“This year, we’ve had a hard time making up our minds on the annual report,” said Foundation Executive Director Spoolely Snidely. “Last year, after much debate we went with a glossy whitewash of the truth that was so slick that some of our donors wanted to make it into a Hollywood movie. This year, we’re thinking twice about that strategy, not only because most of what we said wasn’t true but also because it took so much effort to make.”

Last year’s annual report, entitled “Together, we achieved tomorrow’s dreams”, was a 60 page glossy document that used some of the most expensive stock images and design available. Costing more than $100,000, the report, and its accompanying website, social media, DVD and the one hour “Behind the Scenes: the Making of our Annual Report” movie, staring Lindsay Lohan, was highly successful.

“We gave this thing out to everybody, and it made us appear to not only be a charity worthy of donations, but also to be god-like creatures that had super-powers and the courage of lions,” said Snidely. “In fact, my part in the movie was played by an animatronic, talking lion who was voiced by Sarah Palin. It was just too much.”

The report said very little about what the charity did, how it spent its money or how effective it was and instead told stories about how it had saved the world by giving grants to run local soccer programs and helped new parents buy their first booties for baby.

“People started paying way too much attention to us. They wanted to know when our next ‘miracle’ would take place. And many stopped giving because we had claimed that we had solve almost every problem facing Planet Earth,” said Snidely. “That was bad.”

New VP Financial Wendell Badhair was one of the people advocating for change in their year’s report. He told Snidely that annual reports should be treated much like diarrhea – it’s something you should just quietly clean-up without drawing much attention to.

“Annual reports are just terrible. Everybody reading them wants to know all the stuff you’ve been doing, and I just don’t think we should tell them. Like, it’s not their charity, it’s ours. So, bug off. That’s what I’m thinking,” he said.

His idea is to publish a short four page document with financials that offers information completely out of context that no one but the VP Finance of the charity will understand.

“With my plan, we can say we gave complete disclosure and yet no one will be able to heads or tails of it because most of the time no one understands me anyways,” he said.

The communications manager who argued for transparency and thorough reporting, both positive and negative, was terminated and was replaced by a communications coordinator who makes 30% less.

“We can’t be telling people what we do around here,” said Snidely. “They’d never give.”

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Evil charity clones top donors of rival good charities

The leader of Metro’s biggest evil charity has announced a dastardly plan to clone the city’s top ten philanthropists in order to raise more donations and beat out their rivals.

Scientists for the Evil Community Foundation have successfully cloned the largest donors from three of its competitors, as well as one of their receptionists. Foundation CEO Hector Von Snidely says they plan to replace the real donors with their specially altered clones who will then cancel their pledges with other charities and give all their money to the Evil Community Foundation.

“In one fell swoop, we will go from being the poorest charity in Metro to being the richest! Ha ha ha! And it is too late to stop us!,” screamed Snidely as he addressed the clones and his minions before releasing them into the world.

The Evil Community Foundation has been struggling with their fundraising efforts for years. The Foundation raises money for evil community works and to help train a new generation of young evil leaders. The other large charities in town consistently managed to out-fundraise them time and time again. Worse, no matter what they tried, they could not attract major donors, such noted philanthropists as Sid and Ethel Moneybags or Gerty Littleoldrichlady. That changed when the Foundation hired Von Snidely, a mad scientist and fundraiser.

“They had tried everything – hiring consultants, bringing in more major gift officers, planned giving, cause marketing, social media and even a voodoo ritual with a chicken. Nothing worked. I told them that to be successful in fundraising you have to be evil. And what could be more evil than cloning your rival’s mega-donors?” said Von Snidely.

In a secret layer in the old abandoned chemical works on the east side of town, Von Snidely and a team of ex-Soviet army scientists worked round the clock for months to prefect the clones. They first started cloning sheep in order to perfect their technique and because they enjoyed fresh lamb. The team obtained DNA samples by hacking into their rival’s fundraising databases which contained genetic material as well as giving histories. Once the clones emerged from their test tube they were subjected to intense brainwashing and training.

“We had to overcome their innate desire to help others. One of the clones kept on wanting to give part of his rations to other who looked hungry. We had to start again several times with that one.”

The clones were then dressed to match their real selves and sent to visit rival charities. They waited until the real donors were out of town or on the golf course to strike.

“Sid and Ethel Moneybags just came in here and canceled their 10 year pledge, broke all my pencils and then left with dribble coming out of their mouths,” reported Dibble Brewer, CEO of the Foundation for Metro. “That didn’t faze me because mega-donors do those kinds of things. But then Martha Escrow and Julius Bank did exactly the same thing. It was strange.”

Denzel Goody, Executive Director of the Foundation for Good Metro said he tried to reason with his mega-donors when they to cancel their pledges. “They handed me a note saying they were cancelling everything, but when I tried to reason with them they just got down on all fours and starting baaaaing like sheep.”

Von Snidely says once the clones have secured the pledges for his Foundation he plans to throw a huge fundraising gala and invite the clones to come and planned gifts.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Fundraising killed the dinosaurs, says new study

The old stone that shows signs of dinosaur fundraising

Palaeontologists have come up with an alternative theory as to why all the dinosaurs became extinct  66 million years ago – over-fundraising.

In a study published in the journal, Weird Paleontology, a team from the University of Northeastern Western University in Alberta, Canada says they have found evidence that fundraising led to the mass extinction of dinosaurs during what is known as the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event.

The evidence comes from a rock found in the Badlands area near Drumheller, Alberta, where many dinosaur skeletons have been found over the years. Carbon-dating shows that the fossils in the rock come from the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction era.

“The rock shows that the dinosaurs had built-up a very sophisticated fundraising infrastructure just before they became extinct. Clues in the rock show that it may have been an early kind of pledge form. If true, it changes everything about what we know about dinosaurs,” said Dr. Dibble Brewer, lead scientist for the team.

Until recently, most scientists believe that dinosaurs sat around eating grass or each other and occasionally time travellers who came back to find out why they became extinct. Brewer says the exact opposite was true. Their research shows that dinosaurs had developed language, had begun to share food and had started a primitive form of community fundraising. They donated food, weaker animals of their pack that were no longer productive and other things to support other dinosaurs in need.

“This fits with what we know about dinosaurs from this era. Their teeth became less sharp, they developed the ability to put their hands out to ask for money and often had neck and wrist pain from using fundraising databases that were too complicated,” said Brewer.

“This move to a fundraising economy shows an intelligence and sophistication that we never suspected before. It was, unfortunately, what also killed them all off.”

Brewer and his team suspect that when a meteor fell in what is now called the Chicxulub crater, on the coast of Yucat√°n, Mexico, the dinosaurs were totally unprepared fundraising-wise.
“The meteor must have been terrible. Tidal waves, dust clouds, hurricanes, changes in climate. But we speculate they might have survived if it wasn’t for their fundraisers.”

In a theory called “Fundraising killed them all” the science team says like today’s natural disasters, the dinosaurs likely dug deep into their pockets (if they had any) to give to less fortunate animals affected by the disaster.

“But this was no hurricane, famine or drought. This was all of those put together on steroids. They must have kept giving and giving until they had nothing left. Then, when the weather turned bad, they died off. Fundraising just killed them.”

One of the rocks recovered by the team shows animal prints on a pledge form, which Brewer says shows that at the end many dinosaurs tried to cancel their pledges. By that time, it was too late.

“The lesson we can learn from all of this is that fundraising is a risky business and can, in the right circumstances, lead to extinction. Other than that, it’s fine,” said Brewer.

Future research will look into how cell phones destroyed the small minds of young dinosaurs before the extinction event.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Japanese researchers create first, autonomous Fundraising Android

Better, faster stronger?

Japanese scientists have created the world’s first autonomous fundraising android – a lifelike robot designed to solicit millions in donations.

Called iAsk, the five-foot tall robot looks and acts like a major gifts officer at a typical American university of hospital. Designers say the android is capable of asking for annual gifts as low as $5.00 or major gifts that could run into the millions. It comes in two styles – a svelte, young Asian woman or a 50-yearold, distinguished looking white male authority figure.

“We’ve programmed the combined wisdom of more than 100 senior fundraisers from across America into iAsk’s database. It can do almost anything a human fundraiser can do, but with less fuss and bother,” said Dr. Fujitsu Snidely, lead scientist at Fundraising Robotech 3000, the maker of the iAsk.

Powered by a nuclear fuel cell the iAsk can make more than 50 solicitations a day without stopping for an expensive lunch, complaining about its quota or stopping to complain about its boss to other fundraisers.

“The iAsk doesn’t need a fancy office or their own espresso machine or a minion who enters all their data because their too klutzy to be allowed to do it themselves. The iAsk does all this itself. It also has a port on its posterior where it prints its own business cards and can jump start a donor’s car during the dead of winter,” said Snidely.

The iAsk uses a sophisticated onboard computer database to generate customized donor information for its solicitation and combines this with a powerful set of sensors that can scan a donor’s bank account, review their internet use and monitor their body systems to determine whether the donor is lying or telling the truth. It also makes a video recording of the entire solicitation and downloads it to the charity’s fundraising database automatically.

It is also programmed to make small-talk, like a human fundraiser.

“We’ve made the iAsk a perfect fundraising machine. It automatically determines how long it should engage in small talk before making the pitch based on a 15-point scale of body cues the iAsk uses with its onboard sensors.”

Snidely says they thought of everything. The iAsk can drink up to 30 cups of coffee, no matter bad they are, and eat up to 10 pounds of sandwiches or sweets. These are compressed within its body and then later excreted into a holding tank back at the office.

The iAsk also has a full suite of onboard payment options. Donors can open the iAsk’s torso and access a debit/credit card payment port, insert cash into the iAsk’s mouth or have the iAsk remove its head to perform a full appraisal of any art work.

“We also gave it superior gift planning abilities – better than any human,” said Snidely.

When in gift planning mode, the iAsk will perform a thorough health check on the donor, including blood and DNA analysis, to determine what when the donor might die.

So far, the iAsk has performed flawlessly in tests in Japan and the US. One donor was wounded when the iAsk malfunctioned. It took the command to “squeeze every cent” out of the donor literally. A re-calibration of the system’s software fixed the problem.