Online Fundraising Platforms

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Business, charity: water, Internet, Marketing | Posted on 20-06-2011


There is a plethora of online fundraising platforms out there, and more emerging every month.

I recently asked one of my awesome interns at charity: water, Alicia Kim, take on as a project a quick review of the many players out there with some assessment of what differentiates them.

She did such a good job with this interactive presentation I thought it would be a crime not to share it with the world – so enjoy!

One thing to remember if you’re thinking about online fundraising – the various sites and options are ONLY tools – this is a point I’ve made in an answer regarding mycharity: water on Quora. It’s what you do with those tools that will make an impact!

5 Learnings from Year 1 at charity: water

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Business, charity: water, Internet, Life, Marketing | Posted on 09-06-2011


This time last year I took a plunge and joined my favorite non-profit, charity: water, as Director of Digital.

The first year has been amazing. The most fulfilling, exciting and extending year of my professional career. So I thought I’d take some time to share the 5 biggest learnings from my first year on the job.

  1. Team is everything
  2. The power of brand and creative
  3. Relationships drive return
  4. Prioritize and be decisive
  5. People are good
  • Team is Everything

I’ve learned a huge amount about teamwork alongside my executive team at charity: water. ‘Teamwork’ was always a value I appreciated, but I didn’t quite understand just how important it is, and just how much hard work it is, until the past year.

We work at it every day – we’ve brought on executive coaches, we’ve read books together, we’ve spent a lot of time intentionally learning how to work better together. A real turning point for us has been the past 6 months, we’ve begun meeting as an executive team every morning at 9am and the additional time together has made a big impact.

Teamwork requires deep trust (that only comes with time), constant communication (listening as much as talking), and, importantly, vulnerability (not easy for a rugby player). It’s also essential that everyone on the team has deep committment to shared goals and to each other.

The biggest learning for me has been that you don’t really realize what good teamwork is until you start working as a high performing team.

  • The power of brand and creative

Few things can boost your brand in an online world more than great creative. And for truly inspiring creative you need talented people given the freedom, time and resources to produce amazing work.

We’re very lucky to have a stroyteller and huge creative brain in our Founder Scott, and also the strongest creative team I’ve ever worked with led by Vik’s genius and supported by a great team.

So many times I’ve worked with big brands who would focus rigidly on budgets, ‘eyeballs’ and numbers driven strategies. Content and creative is just a means to an end in this dynamic. But now I’ve seen how an investment of time and effort in inspiring, powerful content can lead to huge gains and ROI.

At charity: water we spend about $0.08 for every $1 we raise – and our powerful brand and creative is a huge element in making that happen.

  • Relationships drive return

One of the first things I did at charity: water was put together a digital strategy hinging around relationships. This comes naturally to the brand – and most importantly it involves thinking of people as people, not wallets.

One of our strategic priorities as an organization is to ‘inspire a movement of passionate, informed and active supporters’. We can only do this by focusing in on our customer experience, thinking about long-term relationships with every donor, and continually thinking ‘how can we make our fundraisers heros?’.

We do this in many ways, such as by focusing on entertaining content and saying thank you instead of asking for money (we’ve never sent direct mail). We’re also working on proving to our donors where every cent of their money goes, and hopefully delighting them by showing the impact they have made.

Think about this for a second: what’s the last thing you’ve done for your customers?

Customer experience matters. Relationships and giving to your audience is so valid. Our thank you emails, water changes everything, dollars to projects.

  • Prioritize and be decisive

charity: water is a brand on an explosive growth curve. We perpetually have more opportunity than we can deal with. This has taught me that prioritizing and decisiveness are essential skills for a leader.

One of our coaches, Carol Morley, shared a thought on this that has stuck with me:

Someone who makes 10 decisions a day, and gets seven right and 3 wrong, will be much more successful in the long run than someone who makes just 3 decisions… but ensures all 3 are perfect.

In the words of another mentor Mike Moran: Do It Wrong Quickly.

  • People are good

Everyday I’m inspired by things people do to help the cause. Michael Birch not only plays a big role in keeping our lights on, but is investing energy in a new web project. Bill Nussey’s Silverpop via Joohae and Erinne have revitalized our approach to email. The good people at Razorfish have done huge things for us digitally pro-bono (shout out: Andrea, Rupa, Raashi, Shawn, Emily). Michael Lazerow and the Buddy Media team have even helped us help Will Smith spread the word!

And then there’s the kids, like little Tariku who built a well with his 5th birthday, and 11 year old Nathan Hidjat and his Google Doodle.

People are good. And people are also kinda lazy. Inspire them and empower them and they’ll change the world for you.

That’s the big 5 insights… there are thousands more of course! If there is anything else you’d like me to share just leave a comment or ask me on Quora.

One Piece of Advice from the DMEF Rising Stars

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Business, Life, Marketing | Posted on 01-06-2011


I was recently honored to be nominated alongside Avinash Kaushik, Shane Atchison, Steve Froehlich and Megan Pagliuca as a 2011 DMEF Rising Star.

The awards dinner is coming up in June, but ahead of that date I asked each of the Rising Stars to contribute the single most important piece of advice you would give to someone just embarking on their career in marketing/communications?

I’ll start to kick us off:

Keep learning. Every single day. Students and new professionals have never had access to so much information that can expand their lives and careers.

Join Twitter and follow smart people, start a Google Reader and subscribe to a range of blogs and RSS feeds, visit news websites every day (or read the paper over breakfast!), subscribe to some quality magazines like the Atlantic. Read some books!

The more time you spend now absorbing information the more you’ll expand your worldview, your career prospects and your strategic thinking doing the track. And it’s like eating right or going to the gym – you need to make it a part of your every day routine to get results!

Avinash Kaushik, Analytics Evangelist, Google

Draw a Venn diagram.

Circle one contains the things you are really good at and passionate about. This requires far more soul searching than you might imagine, in the end you have things you LOVE doing.

Circle two contains things your audience (co-workers, Twitter followers, etc) really care about, things they value. This means asking questions, listening, asking follow up questions, listening some more.

What’s at the intersection of those two circles? Is there anything you are passionate about (also good at) and what your audience values?

Build a career doing that.

You’ll live a life of bliss. Your audience will cherish you. Everything good in life will come from that.

Megan Pagliuca, VP Display Media, Merkle

The advertising industry is going through immense change, an evolution from an offline world to an online world. Immense change enables immense opportunity, both for ambitious young professionals and for new visions and innovations to make the advertising world work better than it did before. A few pieces of advice for someone starting out:

1.       Break the Rules – In school, breaking the rules did not work to your advantage.  In the business world, breaking the rules is a critical piece of success.  Breaking current processes, creating new ways to do things even when you’re given a million reasons why they can’t be done, is how you innovate.

2.       Believe in the Vision – In order to be successful, whether it’s delivering better results, creating a new technology, or generating efficiencies in the marketplace, you must believe in what you are doing and do it with passion.

3.       Take Calculated Risks – The consequences of doing nothing is greater than the risk of failing at something you want or believe in. Take the job at the smaller company where you’ll gain more experience, challenge your competitor to a head to head test, or build the product that you know will win in market.

Steve Froehlich, VP Membership, ASPCA

My first response was only 4 words: “you gotta burn to earn,” but I thought this sounded better:

As a direct response marketer in nonprofit fundraising, we should recognize that we are standing on the shoulders of giants who were writing direct mail copy and delivering data on tapes to service bureaus when I was just a baby.  As technology continues to evolve, it comes as little surprise that the basic principles of RFM segmentation, urgent & emotional creative, efficiencies of scale, meaningful mass personalization, and prompt acknowledgments remain at the core of what we do. Fundraisers who see a dip in performance can (and do) often blame external factors like the economy, natural disasters, or even their agency… and while it has taken me some time in life to understand the difference between what is urgent and what is important, the best advice I’ve ever received was from a dear friend who told me, “you’re a fundraiser: spend the most time on what raises the most money and spend the least time on what raises the least.”

What’s your best tip for young professionals? Leave a comment!

Google, Obama & the Power of Data

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Business, Internet | Posted on 03-04-2011


All hail the power of data.

Today’s Politico email shared a great anecdote from “In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives” by Steven Levy:

“Google was Obama territory [during the campaign], and vice versa. With its focus on speed, scale, and above all data, Google had identified and exploited the key ingredients for thinking and thriving in the Internet era. Barack Obama seemed to have integrated those concepts in his own approach to problem solving. Naturally, Googlers were excited to see what would happen when their successful methods were applied to Washington, D.C. They were optimistic that the Google worldview could prevail outside the Mountain View bubble. … [A]nyone visiting the Google campus during the election year could not miss a fervid swell of Obama-love. While some commentators wrung hands over the Spock-like nature of the senator’s personality, Googlers swooned over the dispassionate, reason-based approach he took to problem solving. … ‘It’s a selection bias,’ says Eric Schmidt of the unofficial choice of most of his employees. ‘The people here all have been selected very carefully, so obviously there’s going to be some prejudice in favor of a set of characteristics – highly educated, analytic, thoughtful, communicates well.’ …

“[O]ne of the company’s brightest young product managers, Dan Siroker [the Chrome browser], … got permission to take a few weeks off. … At [Obama] campaign headquarters in Chicago, Siroker began looking at the web efforts to recruit volunteers and solicit donations. … [H]e returned to Google to help launch Chrome. But over the July 4 weekend, he went back to Chicago to visit the friends he’d met on the campaign. Barack Obama walked through headquarters, and Siroker was introduced to him. He told the senator he was visiting from Google. Obama smiled. ‘I’ve been saying around here that we need a little more Google integration.’ That exchange with the candidate was enough to change Siroker’s course once more. Back in Mountain View, he told his bosses he was leaving for good. He became the chief analytics officer of the Obama campaign. …

Just as Google ran endless experiments to find happy users, Siroker and his team used Google’s Website Optimizer [tool for testing site content] to run experiments to find happy contributors. The conventional wisdom had been to cadge donations by artful or emotional pitches, to engage people’s idealism or politics. Siroker ran a lot of A/B tests and found that by far the success came when you offered some sort of swag; a T-shirt or a coffee mug. Some of his more surprising tests came in figuring out what to put on the splash page, the one that greeted visitors when they went to Of four alternatives tested, the picture of Obama’s family drew the most clicks.

We First Interview

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Business, charity: water, Internet | Posted on 23-03-2011


Last week I was in Austin, Texas for the SXSW mega-conference – think Woodstock, for nerds.

While there I had the good pleasure to meet a great charity: water supporter and one of the smarter guys in the cause-marketing space, Simon Mainwaring, who shot this video with yours truly for his blog (apologies for the croaky voice… SXSW will do that!).

Simon is a must-follow if you’re interested in social media for social good, cause marketing or corporate social responsibility. And I’m not just saying that because he’s a fellow Aussie!

Right now he’s promoting his new book We First, one of the first books I’ve heard of that will laser in on the intersection between social media, social good and corporate strategy.

I’ve had the good fortune to be able to thumb through a pre-release copy of the book and can enthusiastically recommend you pre-order it here.

Delivering Happiness: Non-Profit Perspective

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Business, charity: water, Internet, Life, Marketing | Posted on 13-10-2010


I try not to read too many business books. I have a constant stream of business info heading my way via Google Reader and Twitter. And any time I’m reading a business book I always think I’m missing out on working through the classics or another piece of great fiction that might extend my world view.

So it’s rare I’ll really enjoy a business book. It’s even rarer one will instantly produce a significant shift in my thinking. Delivering Happiness by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh managed to do both.

Reading Tony Hsieh's 'Delivering Happiness' on the bus to work - seems fitting right @dhbus?

Tony Hsieh and Zappos are renowned for their approach to customer service and company culture. Delivering Happiness looks at both through the frame of Tony’s personal experience and outlines the core thinking that led to Zappos eventual billion dollar acquisition by Amazon.

As I read Tony’s story I found more and more similarities with my work at charity: water, and also got a glimpse of how our organization can take a Zappos approach to charity and change the world while we’re at it.

We deliver clean water to developing nations, Zappos delivers shoes to westerners – how could there be a link?

It boils down to this: all online shoe vendors are basically the same. It’s not a sexy business, nor groundbreaking. The point of differentiation for Zappos is in making customers go ‘WOW’ and sparking a deep relationship with the brand. In practice this looks like:

– Free shipping for deliveries AND returns
– A real person on the phone, every time
– Upgrades when possible to next day delivery
– Most importantly, a deeply held commitment to doing right by the customer

As a non-profit charity: water doesn’t necessarily have ‘customers’. And we don’t have a ‘customer service’ department. But we’ve got something even more important: donors, fundraisers and supporters.

The question for me is how can we build a culture that can deliver that WOW factor to all of them. What is the equivalent, for a non-profit, of free shipping and next day delivery of a pair of shoes?

In the case of charity: water – it’s reporting.

We already focus on this more than most – we send 100% of donations to the field and we’ve always marked every water project we’ve built on Google Maps to prove the impact. And it’s right here, the connection AFTER our donors have committed funds, when we can ‘deliver happiness’ to our supporters unlike any other cause, and in doing so turn them into lifelong fans.

The biggest adjustment for now: ‘reporting’ has moved to the core of our digital strategy (headlined with a phrase stolen from Zappos: ‘Deliver WOW through service’). And here is an example of how reporting can WOW – check out this video we made Will and Jada Smith to show them the well they funded (they’ve since become two of our biggest supporters).

For now, grab yourself a copy of Delivering Happiness and have a read. In the meantime, check out this video featuring the Delivering Happiness crew visiting our office at charity: water last month:

And for one final piece of happiness for you – leave a thoughtful comment and I’ve got a copy of Delivering Happiness on hand that I’d be most happy to send to my favorite commenter.

Social Media Week Panel on Entrepreneurship

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Business, charity: water, Events, Internet, Marketing | Posted on 30-09-2010


Last week I appeared on a video panel for Social Media Week hosted by the State Department. I joined Rachel Shechtman of TOMS Shoes and Oren Michels of Mashery to discuss entrepreneurship.

Video here, the sounds isn’t great but the content was pretty solid. Was a lot of fun – especially fielding questions from Argentina, Colombia and Benin thanks to the reach of the State Department.

Also, I’ve gotta take kudos for the set design – Rachel and I were locked in a storage cupboard at the Passport Office and had to wrangle together a backdrop out of what we could find in the room… hence the giant American Flag sitting behind us!

charity: water unsubscribe page

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Business, charity: water, Humour, Internet, Marketing | Posted on 11-08-2010


We’ve been stepping up our email marketing efforts at charity: water thanks to the generous pro bono support from our partners at Silverpop.

As we move onto best-in-class technology (the Silverpop tech and services really do rock – I can’t endorse them highly enough) we also want to clean up our list and make sure all our subscribers are completely happy. So in a recent mailing we placed a prominent ‘unsubscribe’ link at top and bottom of our mailing, and pointed them to this page:

The users choice – unsubscribe, OR watch this video featuring our fearless leader Scott Harrison getting the clean water treatment:

The results so far:

  • over 70,000 emails sent
  • around 100 unsubscribes
  • 740 views of the video

We’re pretty happy with an unsubscribe rate at close to a thousandth of a per cent, and that over 7 times that many watched the video and stayed with us. Plus, we love another chance to have a personal touch with our network of supporters.

If you would like to opt-in to our occasional emails and help us provide clean and safe drinking water to the 1 billion people living without it, just click here to sign up.

Many thanks to the folk at Groupon for sparking this idea!

Speaking: DMEF I-Mix and BlogHer Business

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Business, Internet, Marketing | Posted on 03-08-2010


Quick update from an Amtrak train en route to Baltimore – I’m speaking at two awesome conferences this week: DMEF I-Mix and BlogHer Business.

I’ve been helping the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation out with some social media advice for the last year or so. It’s a pleasure to help their mission to unite college students, professors and employers in the marketing realm. Check out their great new blog authored by my good mate (and one of the smarter young marketers I know) Andrea Derricks.

Tomorrow I’ll be speaking at their Interactive Marketing Immersion Xperience to a room of marketing students undertaking a week long crash course on all things digital marketing. I’ll be taking a lead on the social media element, making bad jokes and generally being misunderstood due to accent issues.

I'm speaking

Thursday I’m back up to NYC and I’m really excited to be speaking at BlogHer Business as a Converseon fellow alongside my former client Ilana Rabinowitz of Lion Brand Yarn.

I attended the first BlogHer Business in 2008 and it’s still a stand out conference for me due to the great vibe and heavy case study focus. I’m expecting more of it this week and I’m excited to catch up with some old friends and the many inspiring women who make up the BlogHer community.

Finally, and on a completely tangental note, since I’m riding Amtrak & enjoying their free wifi – I feel I’ve gotta point out how smart I think their cheeky advertising in airport security line bins is:

Fixing Your iPhone and Apple Customer Service

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in Business, Humour, Life, Marketing | Posted on 08-07-2010


I’ve been an iPhone user for three years, and like many iPhone owners I’ve cracked my screen (twice). And also like many iPhone owners I’ve had many a horrible experience with Apple and ATT’s arrogant approach to customers.

I knew that the Apple store would charge me an arm and a leg, despite the fancy decor and Genius Bars. So I typed ‘fix iPhone’ into Yelp and found Dr Brendan near me in the East Village who would fix it for $60.

I entered his small East Village apartment to find a bunch of people lining up, two friendly blokes fixing phones and a phone ringing off the hook. To my surprise they’d been featured on CNN today and a legion of similarly disaffected Apple customers had found salvation.

The bigger story here: can a brand like Apple really get away with treating its customers so badly they’ve created a black market in customer service? Dr Brendan’s service was great, but I must admit climbing four flights of steps to a small East Village apartment had me feeling like I was doing a drug deal.

The quote to sum it all up comes from one of Dr Brendan’s other customers today, a hospital employee with a cracked screen:

“Apple’s a total asshole to me. The one time I went in there I scheduled an appointment, you have to wait, they tell you they can’t fix it…”

My advice – if you’re in NYC with a cracked screen or other issue see Dr Brendan. If you’re in the market for an iPhone: buy something else.

This site is protected by Comment SPAM Wiper.