Posts Tagged ‘charity’

5 reasons your community group should NOT use Facebook ads

Saturday, March 25th, 2017 | Thoughts

You’re on the committee for a community group and you have a big event coming up. Someone suggests you should do some advertising as it would be a great chance to get some new people in. Someone else suggests “let’s do some Facebook ads”.

It is understandable why this suggestion would be made. Flyers are a massive waste of money. Plus, everyone is doing Facebook ads now. It seems like a great way to go.

It isn’t. Stop right now and make sure you can answer all of these objections before proceeding.

Your copy sucks

The art of writing sales material, known as copywriting, really is an art. It takes years to become good at copywriting. I’ve spent the last three months working on it, including buying expensive courses from some of the best copywriters around and my copy still sucks. Not just a little bit: it’s rubbish. It doesn’t convert.

And whether you are a business selling a product, or a community group selling an event, you need to convert some people into customers, even if that is only showing up to your event. Saying “oh we have this amazing event” is not enough. You need to write compelling stuff. That takes a professional.

Who are you going to target?

Facebook ads work because you can target specific people. But how will that work for your community group? The best marketers spend ages zoning in on their ideal customer, then market to them, then retarget them after they have visited their website.

Nobody has visited your website because you’re a community group, and even if they did, you don’t have a retargeting pixel on there.

So you target “people in my city”. Which is the equivalent of sending a blanket mailshot out via the Royal Mail. Most targetted direct mail gets a 1% response rate. Untargeted mail can only dream of that.

Facebook takes time to work

Facebook is very good at working out who your ads should be shown to. But this takes time. You have to spend money before it works. When I started advertising for the WAM 30-day challenge, we were paying £0.60 per click. Thre weeks later we were paying £0.15 per click. Facebook worked out who my ads should be shown to.

But that only happened after several weeks and several hundred pounds spent on ads. The first £100-200 is basically a fee you pay to Facebook so they can work out who to show the ads to. Then you start seeing results. How big is your budget? Probably less than that, right?

People don’t trust you

People are suspicious of paid advertising. They should be: a company is trying to influence them. You might think that you avoid this being a community group. But you’re wrong. You’re in a worse position.

Why? Because it is even more suspicious. ProCook follow me round the internet with adverts for their latest cookware. They know I have been on their website so they target me on Google and Facebook (and all the websites who use their ads, which is everyone). There are ProCook ads everywhere.

But at least I know what is going on here. ProCook is relentlessly targeting me because they are trying to sell me a pan. That’s the deal.

With a community group, it is a whole different ball game. What are they selling? How are they funding these ads? Is it a cult? What is their business model that allows them to run Facebook ads?

People want to discover community groups organically, either by searching for something they are interested in or because a friend told them about it. Seeing paid advertising makes it look like a religious cult or government-sponsored initiative to shift state-provided services off their books and into the hands of private individuals.

There are better things to spend the money on

Like making your events even more awesome. So that people come back. Most groups do not have a promotion problem. They have a retention problem. You only need one new person to come along each week and you have one hundred members after two years of running. But most groups are five years down the line with 20 members.

Holiday Food Drive 2016

Monday, December 26th, 2016 | Foundation, Humanism

I would like to say a big thank you to everyone who helped out with the Humanist Action Group‘s 2016 Holiday Food Drive for local homeless shelters.

Once again it was a heroic effort from Sarann, charity coordinator at West Yorkshire Humanists, who organised the entire event. We also want thank Jo James for allowing us to use Mill Hill Chapel, and all the volunteers who donated items and turned up at the final boxing to help us package and deliver everything.

Here are some of my favourite photos from the event:

Are we doing charity wrong?

Saturday, April 30th, 2016 | Thoughts, Video

At TED2013, Dan Pallotta made the case that we think about charities the wrong way. We judge them by what percentage of our donation goes to the ‘end cause’, and not on results. This prevents them from competing with for-profit business because they cannot spend big on hiring the best people, marketing and fundraising.

A number of these points resonate with me.

First, I choose to work in the private sector, rather than the third sector. I suspect I might enjoy working for a charity more than I enjoy my current job. However, just like Pallotta points out, it is simply far more profitable for me to do it this way round. By earning a good salary in the private sector I am able to feed my family and have enough left over to fund my foundation.

Second, in my time being involved in CWF, I know I have had thoughts, and probably conversations, along the lines of “how will that affect our charitable spending?” This means we have a great spending ratio, 93.8% in our last financial year, but essentially means that we could well have made some bad decisions in order to keep this number high.

Holiday Food Drive 2015

Friday, December 18th, 2015 | Foundation, Humanism

A huge thank you to everyone who helped out with this year’s Humanist Action Group 2015 Holiday Food Drive for local homeless shelters in Leeds. In particular well done to Sarann who took the lead this year in organising everything, and did an amazing job!

We did not inventorise everything this year, so we do not have a grand total for how much we raised. However we did make deliveries to three different shelters in Leeds, a food bank charity named Fair Share and contributed to the Vegan Feast, a monthly hot meal for homeless people in Leeds. This totals to five separate organisations who received a delivery from us.

Thank you to Mill Hill Chapel who kindly provided free use of their building to us. Here are some of my favourite photos from the event.

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Everyone Involved

Saturday, December 5th, 2015 | Thoughts


How do we get people more engaged with community groups?

It is something that I imagine most groups are concerned about. Most of the people on their mailing list probably never turn up to any of their events. Some attend every now and then, or come for a while then stop coming back. Few are as actively engaged as the group would like them to be. I might even suggest that is impossible, because more engagement is usually better.

Some may just want to sit on the mailing list and keep an eye on the activities of the group. I know there are people and groups like this on the West Yorkshire Humanists mailing list. Others probably do genuinely intend to go to events, but there is always something else on. I have sat on the Leeds Salon’s mailing list for years and maybe made it to two events.

This was brought into sharp focus for me recently when I was talking to one of the people who run the Finnish language school. It sounds very useful for me. However, it is on a Saturday morning. Saturday morning is when I do Parkrun. And when I have band practice. And when my advanced Toastmasters club meets. It’s not that Saturday is a bad day, I am just busy all the time. But it it got me thinking about getting members to buy in.

“I am busy” is really a meaningless phrase because everyone is busy these days. It is shorthand for “I have other priorities”. Thus it might not be reaching people and letting them know about events that is the difficulty groups encounter. It could be that they are doing all of that, but they are not pushing themselves high enough up a person’s priorities.

At the same time, I was thinking about my host’s address for Sunday Assembly Leeds. I needed to talk about how the group is run by volunteers, and how we need people’s support volunteering. It occurred to me that one of the selling points should be that that is what a community is. If you are not volunteering, you are not really part of the community in the same way that somebody who is volunteering is. This is a whole different circle to get people inside as Rick Warren would describe it, but there is actually where the good stuff is for them as well as you.

Anecdotally I would say that once someone is involved in the group they spend more time thinking about it and are more likely to turn up to events. They feel like they know what is going on. They are part of the community, it forms a cornerstone of their social life and engagement spirals upwards.

That means that these two issues have a common solution. If you can get people to help run the organisation it not only helps the group run smoothly but is also beneficial for them because they fill including and their engagement levels go up in a positive feedback cycle.

Therefore I am putting forward the idea of Everyone Involved. What if you asked every member of your group to be involved in some way? It does not have to be a big way. They could help run things at events. Maybe put the welcome packs out or be a greeter. They could do something from home – write articles, update the website, even just re-tweet the group’s messages. But the idea is that everyone – every single member – would be asked to do a job, no matter how small or trivial.

I am still fleshing out the idea. It in itself is incredibly simple of course, but whether it is a good idea or not, and how it could be practically implemented remain to be discussed.

Announcing the 2014 Holiday Food Drive

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014 | Foundation, News


We’re pleased to announce the launch of the Humanist Action Group 2014 Holiday Food Drive for local homeless shelters in Leeds. Last year we managed to collect over £3,000 worth of donations and this year will mark our fifth anniversary.

We’re looking for donations of food, toiletries and clothing, as well as time and money to run the operation and buy more stuff. Learn more on the Humanist Action Group website or join us on Facebook.

A thousand dollars

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013 | Life

Last month, I length my thousandth dollar on Kiva.

This means I’ve now lent $1,000 to third world entrepreneurs who are working their way out of poverty. But the real genius of Kiva is that although I’ve lent $1,000, I’ve only deposited $240.

This is because Kiva doesn’t do donations – they do micro loans. You lend someone the money, usually quite a small amount, and they pay it back when they can afford to. Once they have done so, you can lend it out to someone else! This means that for every $1 I deposit, I’ve actually lent out $4.16 – and that number will continue to climb!

Best of all, Kiva is currently offering introductory loans for free. All you have to do is sign up and you get $25 to lend out to someone without having to deposit anything.

Sock Snowmen

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013 | Foundation

Recently, some of the great people got together at Sky Bet and auctioned off their hand made Christmas decorations – Princess Leia and Darth Vader sock snowmen – to raise money for the Humanist Action Group’s homeless programme. Brilliant idea!


Updated food drive guide

Saturday, December 29th, 2012 | Foundation, Humanism


Earlier this month, the Humanist Action Group completed our third annual Holiday Food Drive for local homeless shelters. This year was bigger than ever, raising, including in-kind giving, almost £3,000! We learned a lot from what we did this year, tried some new things, some of which worked and some of which was less successful.

To reflect this, we’ve now got a new edition of the HAG Food Drive guide – this publication provides all the information you need to run a food drive in your local area and now includes whole new sections based on our recent experiences. Get in touch if you would like a copy – it’s free!

White Rose Speakers

Thursday, December 20th, 2012 | Foundation, Life

Having finished chairing the Leeds Skeptics meeting, I sped up to North Leeds on Wednesday to join the end of White Rose Speakers’ final meeting before Christmas, which, for a holiday celebration, was being held at one of the member’s houses (who happens to have a large house).

The reason I was so keen to get there was that the group had very kindly agreed to do a collection and raffle to raise money for the Humanist Action Groups 2012 Holiday Food Drive for local homeless shelters.

Once there, they sprung a table topic on me, the song title “Merry Christmas Everyone”, to which I talked about how you can’t call an event this time of year a Christmas event as people get upset, so you have to end up calling it about a dozen different things in the title to keep everyone happy.

We came away with bags of stuff, and plenty of money from the raffle too! Thanks to everyone donated, your support is very much appreciated!