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July 2020


The New 'Normal'

In late March the whole country went into lock down because of the pandemic, we were still finalising our Bushfire appeal/s and starting to assess the impact, and like many other businesses, we were faced with challenges that simply were not on our radar.

Our first challenge and priority was ensuring our staff were kept safe; our second challenge was to keep them employed and look after their financial well being. We had vulnerable staff that simply could not come into the office and we needed to be able to look after them. Our third challenge was to continue to provide service to our clients and the causes they serve who now needed us more than ever.

All these challenges were inter-connected; we had to move quickly to implement measures to meet these challenges, some we did on the run and others we had already planned through our prior work with our innovation strategy. One of these was having our tele-fundraisers work remotely. At the time when we considered and planned for this option we were thinking work-life balance; we weren’t really thinking pandemic. We literally had to implement a two-year plan in the space of just weeks and build a new operating system that was fully remote to quickly adapt to the new conditions – we did it!

No doubt, the pandemic has changed our world leaving nothing and no-one unaffected. Some sectors such as tourism, the service industries and higher education have been affected more than others. With our international borders continuing to be closed and Australia entering its first recession in 29 years, what are the new challenges that we’re now facing? and what do the trends look like as Australia heads back to work post-pandemic whilst here in Victoria we have entered our second lockdown!

Over the next 3, 6 and 12 months, I think we will continue to face situations that will challenge our resilience and strengths as we adapt to a new ‘normal'. However, our priorities remain the same; to keep our staff safe and working and to continue to serve our clients.

We need to continue to innovate and to adopt new practices and new ways of operating to not only meet the needs of today but also the needs and challenges of tomorrow. For us here at Apple Marketing Group, I anticipate that we will continue to migrate towards having more remote working conditions. This is now in line with global trends ( with more and more workers being forecast to continue to work from home post pandemic with the prediction of over 50% of the workforce working remotely, not just here in Australia but globally. This trend has been long coming with more and more people in the workforce stating that they would at least, like some days working from home. This brings benefits such as flexibility and less travel time for workers as well as new challenges for management.

This inevitably brings forward our biggest challenge - the well being of our staff. How do we look after our team and their mental health during the pandemic and any subsequent lock downs with an added layer of working remotely? When this first started I took the view to provide as much information as possible, include the team in the decision-making process and open a two-way dialogue.  We explored all methods available to us and found our Facebook group and staff e-newsletter to be very effective; staff could share their experiences, frustrations, concerns and receive feedback, information and support in real time without feeling isolated. This is one thing, I’ll continue to enhance, evolve and implement as a way of supporting staff that are working remotely.

Another measure we implemented has been in the way we connect with charity supporters. During the pandemic we’ve had over 437,000 conversations with existing and prospective supporters. We made sure we took the time to ask “how are you?”; listened to their needs and asked them about how the pandemic affected them. We saw some very positive and promising results from a retention and financial perspective. This is something we will continue to explore and develop through our supporter sentiment surveys.

We also observed that many mature charity supporters (70 years plus) have become quite tech savvy. Everyday tasks had to continue and in many cases were done online; ordering groceries, paying bills and communicating with family and loved ones. This has been a positive step helping donors feel comfortable and confident to participate in online fundraising activities. Donors expectations have also increased, expecting receipts and other outcomes from their activities provided instantly or a lot quicker than we've seen pre-pandemic.

Another trend accelerated by the pandemic is Australia’s move to a cashless society.  A decade ago 62% of transactions were done using cash with that figure dropping to 37% in 2016 and 27% in 2019. But the need to avoid close contact during the pandemic has brought cash transactions down to less than 10% according to the Big Banks. In fact, there were many places that would simply not accept any cash or coins.

Developing our digital capability is something we've been working on for quite some time and we have already launched the Cause Connect ( platform with digital raffle fundraising but as Australia moves towards a cashless society we also need to adapt and provide more online payment options such as Tap and Go, Apple and Google Pay, Pay ID’s and other Direct Transfer methods. This is something that many of us in the not-for-profit sector need to develop in the coming months.

Whichever way we look; this pandemic has accelerated and brought forward trends that were already simmering under the surface. Many of us had been planning to address these trends over the space of several years, which now we are having to implement in a very short space of time. But somehow, I can’t help thinking that there’s more to come, a lot more to come. The need for agility, dynamic capability and for thinking and doing things differently will increase and become the new ‘normal’ for many organisations.


Darren Musilli

Posted in: Apple Marketing Blog at 23 July 20


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April, 2020


This is my favourite image of 'Doris the Donor'.  I often wonder what Doris is doing while sitting in the garden contemplating the world. Planning her next words with friends move,  or sending messages to her children using WhatsApp or reading a story about how her donation is helping her favourite charity.   Doris inspires me every day, and now more than ever we need Doris and Doris needs us. Here's an article I've put together about supporting Doris during this time.

It’s March 30 & Doris is waiting for your call. 

Over our 35 year history working with charities, donors and fundraisers we're now facing our biggest challenge.  And what a challenge it is. It's making us all think; differently, it's making us more resilient, and it's bringing us together more than ever before. 

Up until this point, there has never been a reason to stop talking to your donors.  The 90's recession,  September 11, 2004 Tsunami, Farmhand, the Bali bombings, 2009 GFC, Black Saturday and this year the devastating bushfires followed by floods and now COVID-19.  And guess what – we're not stopping now.

Doris, the donor, is waiting for your call.  It is now when donors stand by your organisation more than ever.  Last week our teams were doing nearly every type of phone call;

  • Regular Giving Conversion
  • Upgrade calls
  • Raffle renewal and acquisition
  • Donor renewal and acquisition
  • Bequest classification
  • Volunteer recruitment support
  • Inbound customer service

It's all about Donor Care and Checking in with your donors.  The donors are so appreciative of our calls.  Think about Doris – she is probably 65+, retired or working less, but importantly Doris has lived through all the disasters I've mentioned above and more.  Doris knows her charities are going to be called upon more than ever and that's why Doris stands by her favourite charities.  Doris may not be able to donate what she usually does – she may be helping her child who has lost their job – but will still give what she can. 

So as a fundraiser, how do I navigate and balance the forces being served up daily?  Shareholder concerns and comments, commentary from other fundraising experts, donor sentiment and giving results, team anxiety, team optimism, our vulnerable team members, lockdowns, social distancing reducing our fundraising capacity, work at home solution/s and the list goes on and on.

I always go back to the data.  I need as much data as possible when making decisions.  I seem to have all the emotional information I need, and over the weekend, I completed an analysis tracking our fundraising campaigns from November 2019 through to last Friday. It's crucial to balance emotional data with statistical data as we plan, optimise and mobilise our campaigns each day. We're looking closely at Yes % rates (how many donors are saying yes) and our contact rates (how many donors are picking up the phone). I'm not concerned about average gifts. 

The data sets include the period November 11, 2018 – March 27, 2020;

Raffle & Donor SG/RG Renewals (past buyers/donors) – weekly average calling sample size 20,535

Raffle & Donor Acquisition (purchased warm and cold lists) – weekly average calling sample size 57,011

The graphs below show each category. The interpretation through my lens;

  • Contact rates in all segments are heading North.  More people are at home.  Leverage this opportunity.  First two weeks in January have always been reliable for contact rates.
  • Donor renewals Yes, % rates have increased dramatically in the past week for both single gift and regular gift campaigns.  Upgrade appeals the top performing campaigns
  • All other Yes, % rates have dropped ever so much in the past two weeks.  But nowhere near a level to suggest we need to stop
  • Raffle Renewal and Donor Renewal both came back strong after the January Bushfire disaster.  This is a pleasing trend and provides hope once COVID-19 passes
  • Acquisition YES% is consistent across the board.  We mobilised as many Donor Acquisition campaigns during January and surprise, surprise they exceeded expectations.  For raffles, it's giving supporters a chance at a dream and chance to win. Right now its cash, food vouchers, home entertainment etc. Now's the time to be creative with your raffle prize packages

Our teams are at the front line, and they're telling us to continue.  Doris requires a phone call more than ever.  If you're unsure about running campaigns or you're being told to Stop – please I urge you to speak with your donors and ask them.  We work for the donors.  You owe it to your donors.

Stay safe, stay calm and stay well.

Darren Musilli

Posted in: Apple Marketing Blog at 31 March 20


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Together As One

September, 2019


Earlier this year we revealed some of our plans for future fundraising at our live briefing sessions in both Sydney and Melbourne.

Specifically, we introduced you to the Cause Connect platform and the drivers behind our innovation and digital fundraising strategy. 

In June at the FINZ conference in Auckland we had an opportunity to meet with many New Zealand charities and hold discussions about how we could work together to operate in a new space for collaboration and innovation.  Many thanks for approaching our stand and for your time.

The vision of the Cause Connect platform is to connect supporters with their causes through a single digital hub; as supporters shift in loyalty from supporting specific charities to supporting specific causes.

This shift is driven by the changing demographics. Specifically with Gen Y who have now become the dominant demographic group in Australia overtaking Gen X as traditional supporters such as the Builders begin to decline. 

Connecting supporters with the causes they care about is something that we have been doing for over 30 years.

With the Cause Connect platform, we extend our efforts into the digital space as we seek to engage with supporters, of all demographics, in more meaningful ways to provide an integrated and holistic fundraising solution that is agile. In recent years, we all have felt the impact of digital disruption...

Changing supporter demographics, asking overload, move from local competition to global competition, reduced government funding, amongst many others through reduced ROI despite intensifying our efforts in so many different ways.

These factors are now calling us to disrupt our traditional patterns of operating and embrace innovation and change.

We need to shift from a risk mindset to an opportunity mindset and be proactive rather than reactive to environmental changes. The next step in the development of the Cause Connect platform is to gather some early data from some specific campaigns. Integral to this is the methodology of design thinking.

Design thinking is a scientific approach to strategic innovation (please refer to our August blog).

More importantly, design thinking provides for a supporter-centric approach to fundraising. This is a strategy that we clearly need to adopt to actualise our potential in an ever changing and increasingly complex fundraising environment.

As we pursue this goal, one of our biggest opportunities is for us to collaborate together as ‘ONE’ to accelerate and scale-up existing and new innovations.

One of the key advantages of collaboration when pursuing innovation is that one can engage multiple perspectives for problem solving.


Darren Musilli
Chief Executive Officer
Apple Marketing Group

Posted in: Apple Marketing Blog at 02 September 19


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Data is the new soil of business

August, 2019


You may not have a specific supporter experience strategy, but you will always have supporter experience regardless of whether it was intentional or unintentional.

One way or another, every campaign provides a supporter experience. In reality, you may not have total control over that experience but there are always opportunities to make it work for you as a fundraising charity.

With supporter demographics evolving. For example, Millennials becoming an emerging demography of supporters who are more discerning, savvy, and sophisticated than previous generations of supporters.

We need to be more committed to designing campaigns with highly connected supporter experiences backed by big data and data analytics. Data analytics can provide insights into supporter motivation, which can be used for developing actionable strategies embedded within campaign design.

Many large organisations across traditional industry sectors such as telecommunications, financial services and manufacturing are beginning to realise the importance of design thinking combined with big data.

The inter-connectedness between design thinking and big data is represented in a simplified version in the diagram below:

So how can you design an emotional experience?

The implicit challenge is developing the knowledge of what will work and what will not work in terms of emotional engagement and economic and operational feasibility.

I expect that this will be a learning process for all of us. It will both be challenging and rewarding as we explore new ways of engaging with supporters in response to a dynamic fundraising environment.

However, there are a few approaches that we could consider as we embark on this journey.

Empathy could be a first step in creating a supporter centric campaign design process based on supporter data analytics.

We need to be able to immerse ourselves in the physical environment of the supporter to have a deeper understanding of the issues involved in the complete supporter journey.

Second is high quality data. Big data and design thinking start with high-impact data that is business focused.

Third, there needs to be a strong business outcome focus.

Design thinking and data analytics have to blend to be solution focused and action oriented for maximum impact on fundraising outcome especially, return on investment.

Both design thinking and data analytics have to align with our strategic direction and the opportunities from the changing fundraising environment.

We hope that this will be the foundation for new and emerging revenue generating concepts that we will build upon over the coming years.

Fourth is supporter centricity. Supporter journey mapping can be used to illustrate an individual supporter’s needs, the series of interactions to meet those needs and the resulting supporter experience throughout the journey.

These approaches pave the way for us to engage with supporters in a more meaningful way and to build sophisticated platforms for fundraising, informed by data and data analytics.

This, I believe, will disrupt the old model of fundraising and pave the way for the fundraising of the future.


Darren Musilli
Chief Executive Officer
Apple Marketing Group                                               

Posted in: Apple Marketing Blog at 08 August 19


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Time To Think Beyond Crisis Management

July, 2019


Sometimes we make our worst decisions when we’re in the middle of a crisis. By acting reactively rather than proactively or in a defensive way rather than a proactive way.   Ever felt like that?

Often, we rely on how we have managed issues in the past to solve new problems whose solution exists by adopting new approaches and thinking.

Some challenges many businesses are facing today, including many of us in fundraising, is how to constantly initiate and develop growth and how to simplify processes for a better return on investment.

Hence, a starting place for developing new approaches for problem solving could be based on innovation management.

Innovation management is founded in design thinking, a scientific process that focuses on problem framing and problem solving distinct from past approaches.

It can help us get out of crisis mode type of problem solving and into more creative and proactive approaches by considering challenges from a systems perspective.

Hence, by the application of design thinking methodologies our intention is to not only simplify our processes for improved returns on investment.

We also intend to develop better access for engaging our supporters including the Baby Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y in more meaningful ways for improved efficiency and effectiveness.

As we engage supporters with fundraising initiatives, we need to get feedback from them to generate data for gaining insights that will inform better campaign design and strategies.

Hence, supporter feedback will form an integral part of our design thinking method to fundraising and aim to engage supporters the way they say they want us to engage with them      


Darren Musilli   
Chief Executive Officer
Apple Marketing Group                                                                                                                                             

Posted in: Apple Marketing Blog at 29 July 19


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LinkedIn Post - #ourdifference

July, 2019


Our team has embarked on our annual 12 week cycle of regular giving conversion for our charity partners and their conversations will inspire over 3000 new regular supporters to connect on a regular basis to their favourite cause. 3 weeks in & we’ve learnt three key trends;

1) Capture Imagination - “what the investment will do”

2) Keep the proposition / need specific - “general doesn't work”

3) Link clear, tangible and precise impact ask amounts - “own the ask”

We’re optimising, learning, segmenting and reporting every step of the way. And it’s working! Our fantastic fundraisers are connecting thoughtful, respected and engaged supporters to another level and impact of giving for the amazing charity partners we have the pleasure partnering with.                

Good luck with your regular giving programs. If you need help or advice - get in touch                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Posted in: Apple Marketing Blog at 29 July 19


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No Ordinary Disruption


June, 2019

Trends & Changes

According to Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen, disruption changes an existing market, industry or technology and produces something new, more efficient and worthwhile. It is at once destructive and creative.

Disruption is transforming business models and value networks through technology and business innovation.

A recent study by Ernst and Young has identified three primary “forces” causing disruption. Technology, globalisation and changes in demographics.

Technology and in particular the Internet and digital innovation are speeding up communications, changing the skills workers need and business capabilities. 

It’s changing the very nature of consumption, competition and how markets work. 

The availability of information and ease of access is placing today’s consumers; employees and charity supporters in the driver’s seat. 

For example, the Millennials are demanding greater transparency in how their donations are making a difference.  Globalisation has accelerated in recent decades facilitated by technology and changes to trade rules.

Globalisation is creating new competitors, reordering supply chains and lowering price points. 

Charity supporters and in particular the Millennials are increasingly supportive of global causes, with the process being facilitated by technology through overseas networks.

Demographic changes include an ageing population that will transform everything from healthcare to real estate to workforces that will be dominated by the Millennials causing workplaces to be reinvented.

These trends and changes are presenting unprecedented challenges and opportunities to businesses and calling for agile responses based on data analytics and innovation. It’s easy to underestimate the pace of change.  Smart strategy and execution are no longer enough.

A “pitfall” for many organisations is that they are structured and incentivized to fulfill on the needs of their existing business model and processes potentially missing disruptive opportunities.

Responding to disruption

As organisations involved in fundraising, we need to be more proactive in addressing these challenges and opportunities.

We need to challenge entrenched thinking; shift perceptions, catalyse change and develop novel solutions for engaging supporters.

Responding to disruption is critical as everyone is affected…

By asking the right questions about the trends and other disruptive forces we may be able to get insights and develop some creative answers for formulating more effective approaches to fundraising.

This will not only provide a much-needed increase for return on investment but also provide the necessary platform for harnessing the opportunity of disruption.

Redefining our approach to fundraising

Some questions, we have been asking for quite some time now here at Apple Marketing Group is how can we grow our engagement, and integrate new technologies to increase the overall numbers of Gen X and Millennial supporters? Especially as we continue to see growth challenge’s using only traditional techniques and demographics.

It’s become apparent that we have been approaching our campaigns with the same value proposition across all generations including the Millennials.

As charity supporters, the Millennials for example, hold a very different set of values, expectations and motivation for donation.

Whilst the Baby Boomers are closely connected to the cause and are naturally committed to volunteering, the Millennials are not as connected to the cause and hold little brand loyalty.

But at the same time are highly connected and informed through social media platforms and want to make a difference in the world.

It’s clear that we need to redefine our value proposition not just for the Millennials but right across the board of demographics for more integrated and individualised approaches to fundraising.

This will require data analytics to inform learning to engage with supporters in new ways that will provide a better experience of their engagement with us.

Technology and digitisation will undoubtedly feature heavily in the value proposition for supporter demographics as well as new ways of connecting and building relationships.

Our Vision & Mission

Our vision is to provide charities with a sustainable fundraising solution and be the 'Champion for Charities'. 

And it's our mission that through collaboration and innovation, we become Australia's leading charity fundraising company.                                                                                                                                                             

Posted in: Apple Marketing Blog at 06 June 19


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LinkedIn Post - Why do supporters stop giving

June, 2019


Why do supporters stop giving? You probably know part of the answer but how can you be sure. Last year our teams asked the same question. So, we placed a deliberate strategy on finding out why.

We simply asked the question (more than 4500 times) “Just before you go, we value the input of past supporters and would love to gain some insight as to why you have been unable to support us for a little while?” and 3765 donors and buyers replied:

- “I can’t afford what you’re asking me to do”

- “I prefer to support you in other ways”

- “you and other charities are asking too much”

Listening to supporters enabled us to tailor ongoing strategies resulting in a 200% increase in conversion results. I’m excited to be presenting this and other fundraising ‘take aways’ at FINZ Conference this week in Auckland.

Send me a PM if you’d like the complete survey results pack. And if you need questions answered about your supporters, please send me an email In 2019 our focus is to listen and learn more from your supporters.


#FINZConference2019 #fundraising                                                                                                                                                                            

Posted in: Apple Marketing Blog at 03 June 19


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LinkedIn Post - Cause Connect

May, 2019


12 months ago I briefed our digital strategy team to come up with a new, online, fast paced raffle concept; “Digitise the surf club ‘meat tray’ raffle!”

Fast forward 12 months and our first Cause Connect 50/50 raffle was a huge success selling out in just 5 days. For Parkinson's NSW it was so easy; no permits, no prizes to arrange, no admin, no calls (did I type this correctly!) and no letters. In 5 days it activated past supporters and generated new supporters with the aim of funding Parkinson's nurses across NSW.

Our next 50/50 is now underway for The Shepherd Centre. Buy tickets or check it out

To add this 'rapid fire' fundraising concept to your program or to receive our Case Study, send me an email #success #fundraising #new #digitalstrategy #online                                                                                                                                                                

Posted in: Apple Marketing Blog at 06 May 19


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There's No More Business As Usual


May, 2019

Digital Disruption

Ever since we figured out fire, stone tools, language and other great innovations change has been a constant. Change today is faster than it has ever been. Technology and the Internet have brought radical changes to the speed and to the way we communicate and access information.

As a result of this is disruption the old traditions around which cultures, economies, and politics have been organized are upended.

This disruption has not been kind to businesses used to operating by the rules of the old model. Fifty years ago the life expectancy of a Fortune 500 Company was 75 years, now it is 15 years. It’s probably safe to say that almost all the companies listed in Fortune 500 today will be replaced by new companies in new industries in the coming decades.

Disruption in the Not-for-Profit sector 

Originally, management was designed for a very different set of business needs; ensuring that repetitive tasks were completed, improving economic efficiency and maximising productivity.

In the age of digital disruption and new social development those needs are vastly different.  Proven solutions and strategies that were highly effective in the past are no longer as effective today. 

The not-for-profit sector is equally prone to change and digital disruption.

Traditionally, the sector has relied on the generosity of the Builders and Baby Boomer generations who are deeply connected and hold strong loyalty values to the cause.

Gen X and Gen Y have different drivers for donation; hold different loyalty values, and channels for connecting and engaging.  What has worked in the past is no longer working as effectively today. The way we have engaged supporters in the past will not be the way to engage supporters in the future. This is especially true for Gen Y and the younger generations.

Change is not only coming from a shift in supporter demography, pressure is being experienced from a multitude of other sources including changes in government policy and numerous other factors.

Factors calling for change

  • Digital technologies
  • Shifting traditional sources of funding
  • Move from local to global competition
  • Same cause/multi-charities
  • Reduced Government funding
  • Supporters increasingly want to see the impact of their investment
  • Changing supporter demographic
  • Donation of the moment
  • Asking overload
  • Perpetual grants will increasingly be benchmarked on innovation capability of the recipients

In addition, not-for-profits are increasingly being called to be more efficient, competitive and provide a more sophisticated way of measuring impacts and outcomes. 

There’s now a need for a greater alignment with corporate goals and to develop investment capability to decrease the need on traditional
funding, such as government, for creating growth and sustainability for the future.

Hence, what we believe is needed is not only change, but also a complete transformation of the way we engage supporters and work with one another.  This will require courage, some calculated risk taking and a deep commitment from all of us to work together differently and to think in different ways.

We can no longer plan in reaction to change but rather we need to plan in anticipation of change and create a future that supports our mutual vision, as a single body, committed to making a difference in the community.   

There’s a call for all of us to work more collaboratively, learn from one another, be more innovative, and to think intuitively and creatively in an environment of increasing uncertainty and business complexity.

Creating Our Future Together

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” - Peter F. Drucker

We are committed to expanding our capacity for providing a higher return on investment (ROI) to you, our charities, and growing fundraising activities to provide a much larger financial pool to support and empower your efforts.

Over the past three years we have been quietly working on a plan for creating our future together in the face of this great uncertainty and change.

And this year our changes are unfolding, including;

  • Retention surveys
  • Cause Connect 50/50
  • Integrated system for better supporter correspondence
  • Instant payments, single & regular, via sms

We hope that you will partner with us on this new and exciting journey of fundraising transformation.   


Darren Musilli 
Chief Executive Officer
Apple Marketing Group                                                  

Posted in: Apple Marketing Blog at 03 May 19


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