Open Fundraising


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I have a photo on my phone of my dear and departed dog running along the beach on a sunny day. She looks like she’s laughing and I know she was happy – and when I look at the picture I can feel that precious moment once more. It’s a bittersweet photo, but I’m so glad to have it.


We carry hundreds of those moments with us now – all we have to do is look at our phones. But how you would feel about those photos if you knew you were never going to see any of those people – your family and closest friends – again?


Millions of people across the world have left behind them homes that have since been destroyed. Their loved ones have died or disappeared. They have nothing that is familiar or comforting, until they take their phone out of their pocket.


This article about some work the photographer Alex John Beck has done recently for Oxfam renewed my firm belief that feelings can be manipulated, but they can’t be manufactured.


Empathy is so crucial to fundraising. Paint the picture, tug at the heartstrings, justify the outrage – use any and all available detail to pull the donor into the story and make them feel. And remember that sometimes the killer detail – the one that persuades a donor to give – feels the most familiar.


It is the little things that bring us together, after all.



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“OK, Tom Hanks walks across the stage and thanks Nora Jones. Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin will be on next – after the tape of Usher and The Roots.”


This is all a little bit crazy…


For the last week, Open’s 5-person volunteer team has been camped out in a windowless room at a huge TV studio in New York preparing the fundraising for Facebook Live’s first big telethon – in aid of our client the American Civil Liberties Union.




Like all good fundraisers, we tried to calculate how much we can raise. But we don’t know denominators or numerators. How many people will watch a four hour show on Facebook? How many will give? How much?


We don’t know. But we do know it’s going to be exciting. So please, tune in at midnight in the UK and watch it all happen.




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It’s easy to feel wary about the use of virtual reality in fundraising. Is the cost worth it? Is it just a passing fad? And, in showing supporters things they normally wouldn’t get to see, is it a bit gratuitous and distasteful?


But we’re operating in an increasingly crowded market, so finding new ways to engage supporters is vital – especially as we look to diversify channels of conversion. If handled sensitively, VR offers the opportunity to increase empathy and bring donors much closer to the work they are helping.


Too Much Information is a short VR film by the Autistic Society, which puts donors in the shoes of Alex, a young autistic child in a busy shopping centre. It gives a moving insight into the sensory overload many autistic children deal with every day. To watch, you simply download the free app and use Google Cardboard or other VR goggles – but to add even more relevance to the film’s theme the charity is also touring it around shopping centres around the UK.


Elsewhere, there have been other VR ventures on an even larger scale, and the results look extremely promising. Unicef’s phenomenal Clouds over Sidra, which shows viewers the realities of being a child refugee, helped to raised £3.5 billion at a conference in Kuwait – far more than the projected figure of £1.8 billion. It has now been screened in 40 countries worldwide. WWF’s Tiger Experience, which allowed donors to ‘become’ a ranger and come face-to-face with wild tigers, attracted a 50% increase in numbers of new donors.


It will be interesting to see how immersive technology develops over the next few years but, in the meantime, there are learnings we can take from it right now. At a time when donors have never been more cynical about the difference their support makes, it clearly pays to make them feel part of the story.