It was a lot of effort to import lights to the UK for a small charity. Yet it easily paid off.
- One week we had a run of donations from the same postcode. It turns out that a donor to SolarAid was knocking on every door in her street asking her neighbours to support SolarAid and give £50.
- A donor armed with her solar light approached her city firm, leading to a £25,000 donation.
- A church minister who heard about our story at a school assembly in Scotland was so inspired that his community raised £13,000.
- In California a church goer who bought a solar light from SolarAid got her congregation to raise $5,000. These are just a few of many examples that started to occur on a regular basis.
Five years on
SolarAid continues to attract inbound leads and corporate partners. The latest is Toms shoes which is selling Apple watch straps with a donation to SolarAid.
SolarAid's programme in Africa, called SunnyMoney, has won awards and has been featured in the Guardian newspaper. SolarAid was one of the first winners of the Google Global Impact Award in the UK as a result of the impact solar lights are having on peoples’ lives.
And the mission to eradicate the kerosene lamp? In Tanzania, where SolarAid sold just shy of 1 million solar lights, the market passed the tipping point and the kerosene lamp is now considered a thing of the past. SolarAid has closed its programme there and is seeking to replicate this in other countries in which it currently works, such as Malawi - one of the poorest countries in the World. A Chinese corporate partner who heard of the mission at a fundraising dinner has helped SolarAid design and manufacturer the world’s most affordable solar light for less than $3 per light. It could be a game changer for families living below the poverty line.
Over this five year period we didn’t spend money on traditional broadcast marketing. Now SolarAid has a fundraising programme that is diverse with a broad base of different donors who are engaged. It feels solid and sustainable. Without it the organisation probably wouldn’t have survived the challenges of running a social enterprise in Africa as a market catalyst.
In 2015 fundraising headlines hit the news in the UK. Increasingly, fundraising techniques that push for a response are less and less liked or tolerated. These are the symptoms that traditional response driven fundraising is no longer working as it pushes harder. You do an activity because it raises money, not because it helps engage people.
As response rates fall, the push to persuade people to give becomes stronger.
From over 5 years of applying the principles of ‘Sticky Marketing’ to fundraising these are the key lessons we learnt.
- Peoples’ opinions now matter. So whether you give a good or a bad experience it will be talked about. It made us realise that it’s not about pushing people to give - but how to inspire them to tell our story.
- If you get people to spread your story, it is stronger coming from them to their contacts than from us. So we focused on how we could enable people to do just that and encourage them as much as possible.
- In this increasingly connected world you do not know who people know. So their value can be significantly amplified beyond whatever they choose to donate directly, such as helping engage a company they know of, or work for, or help with knowledge and/or access to funding from a foundation, major donor or even statutory sources. It helped us see fundraising is all inter-connected and not to judge the value of activities purely on how much money they raise directly but to consider the level of engagement it provides.
- As our reputation built (and your reputation is what other people say about you) we started to get more and more inbound requests. It's far more time effective dealing with people and organisations that come to you, rather than spending time and money trying to attract people’s attention and get a direct response.
Above all ‘Sticky Marketing’ gave us a mindset which I believe is critical for charities trying to figure out how to fundraise away from the traditional approach, which is no longer effective for the very same reasons that sticky marketing is.
‘Sticky Marketing’ was prophetic.
Five years on I am enjoying fundraising once again.