Digital Tapas: thoughts from Third Sector’s Digital Fundraising Conference 2012
(image: orhanjones, Flickr)
I love tapas.
Having the freedom to choose different flavours with every mouthful, not having to commit to a single dish (what if it’s not that good?), never looking enviously at another’s meal wishing I had ordered the same. Which is why I enjoyed Third Sector’s Digital Fundraising conference last week; lots of great topics delivered in small bites one after the other, and everyone sharing the same presentations.
Highlights for me included Henry Scowcroft of Cancer Research UK, who reminded us all of the value of high quality, topical content - via the CRUK science blog - to both engage users and attract preferential treatment from Google, and so beginning a conversion pathway that ultimately leads to donations.
Henry Weber-Brown demonstrated his expertise right across digital with two whistle-stop tours of the online landscape, but I think suffered from covering too much ground rather than drilling down into detail on a few targets.
I may here reveal my geekiness, but I really enjoyed Caroline Gregory and Darren Robertson of Action for Children spending a full 30 minutes on analytics and data. Darren’s obvious passion for the subject shone through and his clarity about the importance of using data to drive strategy was highly engaging; not to mention representing a stance I completely agree with. Without data, we are all just guessing and maximising ROI will largely be a matter of luck. I could have happily sat through another 30 minutes.
Sarah Farquhar and Stuart Harrison talked eloquently about the Oxfam Shelflife project, a genuinely interesting case study, but I suspect many people felt that without the investment Oxfam acquired via a research grant, there was little if any business case for such a project.
A barn-storming cameo by Chris Ward of Blue Dot was my final highlight of the day. Chris was bold, specific and clear; all qualities that he hoped to instil in his audience in their approach to digital. One sentence of his (sorry Chris - I shall paraphrase) stays with me even as I write this:
“Figure out what it is that you do well. Focus on that and outsource the rest.”
A lesson for all of us, whatever our job may entail.
All in all, great digital tapas. Sometimes with tapas however, there is a bit of me left unsatisfied. Like I’ve snacked rather than had a good meal. I finish with a niggling unmet need to have finished off a big juicy steak, or a sizeable fillet of fish, with oodles of veg. To have indulged in a small selection of flavours and to have really experienced them.
And so I felt after my day at the Digital Fundraising conference. Lots of tasty bits, but I couldn’t help feeling like I hadn’t really had the opportunity to dive into any particular subject in detail.
I think this is the only drawback of a single day conference without streams. This format doesn’t encourage depth but rather breadth, particularly as the audience will be made up of individuals looking for very different things: smaller charities or those looking to make low cost, initial steps into online fundraising, rubbed shoulders with the likes of Oxfam and Shelter. This audience was so diverse that it could never have been satisfied in a single linear programme.
For me, digital fundraising is such a broad subject that I would love to see it covered in much more detail; audience research and profiling, channel strategies across search, social and mobile, analytics and optimisation, ROI, personalisation, content and emotional engagement. I would happily have sat through an hour on any of these.
So, my encouragement to Third Sector is to use this conference as a springboard for something higher profile next year and to offer more depth and choice to the audience. It must make commercial sense of course, but I would hope that fundraisers across the sector would be interested in a detailed programme on digital fundraising strategies and implementations. Fundraisers, let me know what you think!