Sharing a year of learning: not all the lessons are new

publication date: Jul 3, 2012
author/source: Jonathon Grapsas
When someone asks me to describe the first 12 months after setting up flat earth direct, I tell them it's been 365 days of learning. At this one-year mark, I thought it would be a good chance to stop and reflect on what I've learned and been reminded of through my work with clients. Jonathon Grapsas photo


These trends really slapped me in the face. I may not have seen them coming, but I'm certainly excited to have seen their impact.
  • Losing lots of donors recruited via face-to-face doesn't have to happen. Properly executed digital retention programs work to retain the majority of them. Think mobile: typical F2F-recruited donors are in their 20s or early 30s, and very active on smartphones.
  • Digital recruitment doesn't discriminate. Small charities can do it too.
  • The key to digital (recruitment) success is a "sticky" proposition. Make it memorable, make it compelling.
  • The value of "no." Sometimes the offer to do something is more important than whether someone actually does it. (Hint: teleconferences rock.)
  • Facebook isn't a waste of time when it comes to recruitment. The keys are good content and advertising. (Hint: It's great for event registration.)
  • Video really works. It's a brilliant way to tell stories (Hint: see first point about F2F). You're better off doing old-school tactics well than trying to do digital poorly.
  • Technology should only be used to solve problems. Any other reason (it's cool, fun, worth a try, cheaper, easier) is a distraction.
Wisdom re-learned

These are lessons that have been re-affirmed. Rather than being slapped in the face, they've just given me a nice, gentle shake of the shoulders to wake me up and remind me.
  • Everything is different but everything is the same. If it works in one country, it will likely work in another.
  • Direct marketing and direct mail aren't dead. Well-formulated direct mail appeals for support will still work. Nothing good arrives in the mail any more - except, perhaps, your warm, personal, compelling letter.
  • Incentives and premiums still play a role in fundraising.
  • Regular (monthly) giving is important. There's a lot of low-hanging fruit in your database.
  • The old-fashioned direct marketing and donor care principles apply in the new world. They just need a little tweaking.
  • Don't overcomplicate. Simplicity and focus are critical.
  • Tepid is better than cold. Start with those you know instead of those you'd like to know.
  • The world really is flat. Work with people, partners, suppliers that get you great results. Don't work with someone just because their office is around the corner.
  • The early adopters invariably win. You don't always have to be second. Those with the best results are typically those who know when to be disciplined and when to be different and new.
I'm sure there's more. And I hope there's even more in the next 365 days.

Jonathon Grapsas is the founder and director at flat earth direct, an agency dedicated to fundraising and campaigning for good causes. Jonathon spends his time working with charities around the world focused on digital, direct response and campaigning stuff.

If you'd like to chat to Jonathon you can email him, follow him on Twitter @jonathongrapsas or check out

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