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smTwitter, Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn are just some of the tools that can help you promote your charity and send messages to volunteers about how they can help. It’s easy, quick, free and the message can be spread fast to different audiences.

Social media is about building a long-term relationship with your supporters, and this could be more impactful than frequent calls for donations. Look at other things you can ask your community to do to support you like sharing an image, telling their friends about your work or changing their profile picture.

Don’t forget to share images in your posts; a recent survey found that those organizations who add an image to their pages raised on average 33% more than those who didn’t.

#FundraisingFortnight

seedIf you think that anybody can fundraise you are mistaken.  Fundraising takes skills and hard work; the best fundraisers can make a huge difference to the fortunes of your charity.  Appoint a smart, fast-learning team and offer them plenty of training and support.  Bear in mind that it’s important to hire a fundraiser to raise money and not because you believe they have an address book full of instant donors.

#FundraisingFortnight

ask-for-donationsMost Trustees would like to raise money simply by broadcasting how great their cause is, how great their need is, and then waiting for donations to roll in. However, even the best newsletters and media articles don’t raise much money. Asking people directly and passionately raises money, and there’s no shortcut to this. However, stopping people in the street is more likely to irritate than enthuse them; media advertising is generally ineffective (except if you’re a children or animal charity), so if you want people to give you money, be prepared to ask for it with a proud, direct and passionate ask, whether it is in person, over the telephone, by letter or to a room full of supporters.

Be specific in what you ask for; there is no such thing as giver-fatigue, however there is a nagging fear in most people’s minds that their donation is not being well spent, that it will go on administration or fundraising.

#FundraisingFortnight

The last few years have been particularly tough for the charity sector as it’s had to find new ways to operate and interact with the government whilst meeting the needs of those it serves.

A period of economic growth followed swiftly by recession has seen income levels under pressure at exactly the time when charity services are most needed.  With fewer corporate donations and government grants available to charities, you need to ensure that fundraising is at the top of your list of income priorities.

During the next two weeks we will be posting a daily strategy / piece of advice which will help take your fundraising to the next level.

Day 1: Remember that fundraising takes time

fundraising

Raising money from donations is not an instant task, nor a quick one.  And of course, the bigger the amount of money, the longer preparation takes and the longer lead time needed.  Any organisation which wants to increase its income level from donations should not expect to see a return before 18 months.

#FundraisingFortnight

Since its invention in 1886 by Colonel John Pemberton as a cure for his morphine addiction, the Coca-Cola logo has become a familiar sight globally.  Although the coca was removed in 1903, the recipe has remained unchanged all these years.  Even today, the name Coca-Cola is synonymous with its iconic glass bottle.

bottles

After nearly a century in existence, Coca-Cola created its first brand extension in 1982 with the launch of Diet Coke which was then swiftly followed by Cherry Coke and trials of Lemon and Vanilla flavours.  More recently we’ve seen the launch of Coca-Cola Zero.  What’s been consistent with each new flavour is the familiar red and white branding.

all 

But hold onto your hats because a radical change has happened.  Coca-Cola Life, sweetened with stevia rather than aspartame, has been launched in a green can; is such a major shift in iconography a risky branding move?

Coke-Life

Coke Life will be hitting UK supermarket shelves in the autumn.  What do you think of the new design?

securityThink you do enough to remain secure while online?  Password security has been a hot topic recently (a subject we will return to in a later blog) but you need to be ever vigilant as more sophisticated threats emerge on an almost daily basis.  We’ve put together the following checklist to ensure your data and systems are never compromised:

  1. Install hardware and software firewalls. One can catch problems the other may miss.
  2. Install antivirus software. Your computer needs to be infected with a virus only once to realise the value of this step. After installation, make sure to always install the updates as they become available.
  3. Never run .exe attachments or downloads unless you are sure of their authenticity. Doing so makes it way too easy for hackers to load a Trojan horse or execute malicious code.
  4. Consider encrypting sensitive data on your computer. If your machine is compromised, your critical documents will be unintelligible.
  5. Be wary of emails from people you don’t know or trust. Delete any emails you think are suspicious. Delete the email from your ‘Inbox’, and delete it again from your ‘Deleted’ folder, or ‘Sent’ folder if you have forwarded on the email
  6. Never click onto a link or an attachment in an email, obtained from a source you don’t know or trust
  7. Before entering any personal data, make sure that the address in the URL begins with https: to ensure a secure connection and that your data will be encrypted.

 

heartbleed logo

Heartbleed imageThe last few days have seen a particular internet issue, “The Heartbleed Bug”, hit the mainstream media. Terms you may not have heard before are being bandied about as if they are common parlance – OpenSSL, TLS, X.509, RFC, CVE…. So what do you need to know?

How serious is this really?

Let’s just say that “switching off the internet for a while sounds like a fantastic idea” has been said.

Has anyone suffered an attack?

As far as we know at the moment, there have been no real world exploits of this vulnerability, but they might not have been detected. So better safe than sorry.

What is the Heartbleed Bug?

This is a serious vulnerability that allows information, which normally would be protected,  to be stolen.

Communications on the internet use protocols called Secure Sockets Layer/Transport Layer Security (SSL/TLS) to protect information sent to and from your web browser and other applications. This is what is used when you use a web address that starts https:// and you see a padlock or something similar displayed in your browser. These protocols encrypt the information you are sending/receiving and when the encrypted message is received it is decrypted.

What the Heartbleed bug does is enable anyone on the internet to read the memory of systems protected by the vulnerable security software – which is particular versions of OpenSSL. This information compromises the secret keys used to identify the service providers and to encrypt the traffic, the names and passwords of the users and the actual content. This allows attackers to eavesdrop on communications, steal data directly from the services and users and to impersonate services and users.

What is OpenSSL?

OpenSSL is commonly used software tool kit used to implement the SSL/TLS security. While it is used on a large number of sites it is not used everywhere – the estimate though is that maybe 60% of internet services use it. That is not to say all sites that do use OpenSSL are affected since not all versions have the vulnerability.

Are all versions compromised?

No, the vulnerability was introduced in version 1.0.1 which was released in March 2012 and has been present in all versions up until 1.0.1f. The latest version 1.0.1g had the vulnerability removed and versions before 1.0.1 (most commonly used 1.0.0 and 0.9.8 and 0.9.7) did not have the vulnerability at all.

Are sites and software from Systematic Marketing affected?

No.  None of the sites we manage use OpenSSL so have not been affected by this vulnerability. In our software we do use OpenSSL for communicating with other services but the versions we use are not compromised.

What do I need to do now?

If you have login details for affected sites you should change your passwords, but don’t do it until the site has said that the patched update has been installed. Have a look at the Mashable link below to see sites reporting on the issue.

Where can I find more information?

There are several sites with information:

The official Heartbleed site

The Mashable hit list – a list of major sites that have reported whether you should change your password or not.

The OpenSSL site

A more technical explanation at The Register.

Can I buy the T-Shirt?

Yes you can! Visit heart bleed t shirt at teespring.

Yesterday’s Budget brought some good news for the performing arts.

The Chancellor is extending the tax breaks offered to film to theatres and touring companies. Performing arts companies, including those putting on dance, opera and plays, will be get a tax break of 20%. Regional companies that tour will get a 25% tax break on any initial investment.

After the cuts seen recently this is a welcome move and reflects the ‘unique value that the theatre sector brings to the UK economy’. The Treasury estimates that it is worth up to £15m a year.