ABOUT: Howard Lake is a digital fundraising entrepreneur. He created the world's first website for professional fundraisers in 1994, wrote the world's first book on digital fundraising in 1996, and has trained thousands of fundraisers in using digital tools for fundraising over nearly 20 years. A Fellow of the Institute of Fundraising, he has consistently been voted in the 50 Most Influential in Fundraising by readers of Fundraising magazine. He is co-founder of Barcamp Nonprofits, and founder of Fundraising Camp.
Who would you say is your inspiration for fundraising.co.uk?
I was inspired to create UK Fundraising (www.fundraising.co.uk) in 1994 after working for three years as a sole fundraiser. I knew there were many helpful, experienced fundraisers around who could help guide me or answer some questions, but I didn't know where. I knew there were training courses and books on fundraising, but you had to send off for the printed catalogues.
When I first spotted the web whilst doing a Masters in Information Science (while my day job was as a fundraiser at Amnesty International UK), I knew I'd found an ideal medium to gather and share information on fundraising, both for myself and for many other fundraisers.
I'd already been working towards that at Amnesty. I'd already created an international email discussion list for Amnesty fundraisers around the world - this was before we got access to the web as staff at Amnesty. This enabled us all to share experience, materials and advice via email - saving a lot of time and money on some international meetings.
To answer who inspired me - I'd say my remarkable fundraising colleagues at Amnesty, plus two authors that switched me on to the potential and practicalities of digital communications - Howard Rheingold and Ed Krol.
What are your ambitions for the site and its role in the fundraising sector?
I want the site to adapt to whatever many fundraisers need in terms of advice, ideas, examples and inspiration. I have never wanted or expected it to be the sole destination point online for fundraisers - from the outset I have encouraged and accepted content from anyone or any organisation with practical advice or information from fundraisers.
As such, I've always avoided duplication of content - if someone publishes good fundraising content, we link to it and write about it. We don't for example carry a funding database - there are too many good providers who offer that, and we link to them.
The site has already adapted considerably over the past 20 years. From 1996 it functioned alongside an email discussion list - the UK's first such list for professional charity fundraisers. The list then became integrated with the site as a web forum, and now it is hardly used as most professional discussions take place on sites like LinkedIn or Yahoo! discussion groups.
I've got plenty of ideas about how I can make it easier to bring relevant material to each fundraiser and actually help them cut down on the volume of information they get. Equally, I'm aware that can restrict the serendipitous nature of much of the broad range of fundraising material that I publish.
At least the site now functions effectively on mobile devices. Fundraisers, like most people, want and expect information straight away, wherever they are.
When do you think attitudes will change towards street fundraisers?
I'm not at all confident that public perceptions of street or face-to-face fundraisers will change, despite the good efforts of the sector, it's self-regulation and campaigns like #ProudFundraiser.
Although face-to-face fundraising is probably the extreme example, I can't think of a single fundraising channel that donors and the general public welcome with open arms. Telephone fundraising? "Too American, won't work here". Email fundraising? "Spam fundraising more like". Direct mail? "Junk mail, my friend". Events? "Not another sponsorship request".
When people stop giving by a particular method, then the charity needs to adapt and move on. Until then, we can continue to try to explain why some charities find this method of fundraising effective (and not just in terms of the bottom line), and carry on using it to support organisations' charitable objectives.
Where does the internet fit now for charities and how they fundraise?
Digital communications underpins all elements of fundraising. That's not to say online or text donations are the dominant source of income. Paper-based direct mail is still the major source of voluntary income for UK charities and will be for a while I expect.
But I see digital communications supporting all areas of information - from publicising the need for support to demonstrating impact and results. It has transformed some areas of fundraising: remember how many months it used to take to collect sponsorship money before JustGiving flipped that and succeeded in generating money for charities often before the event?
It also underpins much of the work that fundraisers undertake, from finding a fundraising job in the first place, through training and professional development, to day to day work such as prospect research, data analysis of giving patterns, sharing and discovering fundraising ideas with supporters via social media (like #nomakeupselfie), emulating fundraising successes shared on sites likesofii.org, and creating and sharing videos and images that support the fundraising messages.
Let's not forget email too - it is still probably the most effective digital donor retention method, especially when used in conjunction with offline methods such as direct mail and the telephone.
So I have never used the phrase 'e-fundraising' about my site and about digital fundraising. I always assumed, even back in 1994, that digital was just a part - an increasingly important part - of fundraising.
Why does baking and charity go so well together?
Baking is fun and creative and so too is much fundraising by individuals. If you're going to give up your time and perhaps some money for charity you're going to want to make it a pleasurable experience. If there is cake to eat at the end, who can complain?
Baking is just one of many aspects of daily life that members of the public have embraced and converted into a fundraising mechanism. Runners have their charity half-marathons, adventure seekers their parachute jumps, readers their charity book stalls. Baking is just the latest, and handily high-profile popular obsession that has been turned into a wonderful variety of fundraising campaigns and opportunities.
Which charity campaign has stood out for you in 2014?
The campaigns that have excited me the most this year are, you won't be surprised to learn, those created by members of the public and shared via social media - #nomakeupselfie, #ALSicebucketchallenge and the many variants.
While they are in no way the norm for fundraising, they are significant developments because:
* they worked (demonstrably!)
* they weren't developed by a charity
* they were visual
* they were an opportunity for any individual to say "I'm part of this"
* they were fun
* they were inclusive - "nominate three of your friends"
There are some powerful drivers in there that charities have woken up to. This doesn't mean that the selfie hashtag driven campaign is the future of fundraising - far from it. But it does mean that the public understands digital fundraising, and is not going to wait to be asked to join in to help their favourite charity.
Thank you so much to Howard for some great answers and inspiring words. Fundraisers have a tough job and our donations and support make a big difference in the UK and across the world.