IoF Convention star performer: Nick Mason

The head of fundraising strategy and development at the RNIB says a quick return is often better than a high return

Nick Mason
Nick Mason

- Who is he?

Nick Mason is head of fundraising strategy and development at the RNIB. He describes himself as a reformed banker; he worked in credit risk during the 1990s before joining the sector in 2002. He worked for fundraising agencies and then joined Amnesty International as its database marketing manager in 2007. Mason was taken on by the RNIB to be its fundraising insight manager in 2010.

- What's he going to say today?

Mason will be explaining why charities should never measure the return on investment of fundraising or define an "active" donor by whether someone has given within a set timeframe, such as 12 or 24 months. He will be talking about the best way to measure the effectiveness of fundraising and how charities can introduce more rigour and accuracy into their analytics.

- What's wrong with ROI?

ROI gives only the immediate return, so it does not reveal how quickly you receive it, he says. It is often better to invest in activity that returns income quickly than to invest in long-term activity that boasts a higher ROI, Mason says. For example, is it better to invest in a repeatable activity that doubles your money after one year, with an ROI of 2:1, than in one that returns 7:1 over three years? A combination of cost per acquisition and the expected returns over time (lifetime value) is much more strategically useful and focuses the fundraiser's mind on the donor rather than the activity, he says.

- Are charities trying to measure too much, then?

Mason says almost every charity he's come across is reporting, or measuring, a vast number of things they don't need to. Identifying what is superfluous depends on the charity, he says, but less is often more.

He believes that, without rigour, data just becomes a hotchpotch, allowing managers to pick the measures that bathe them in a good light, rather than making them be consistent about measuring the key information.

- Read more on this year's IoF National Convention

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