Why is KiKa so extremely successful?

In the income analysis that I published in December it was very clear that some organisations in The Netherlands show impressive income growth in the past decade. Compassion Netherlands, Save the Children Netherlands, Stichting Vluchteling (IRC), AMREF Flying Doctors, Milieudefensie (Friends of the Earth) to name just a few. But I'd like to zoom in on one specific organisation: KiKa (Children Cancerfree).

First, check out the overall results.

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This is a textbook example of great fundraising investment. Although not all details are visible in these figures, the results are very clear. In the period 2007-2009 KiKa had an annual ROI of well over 10. In the period 2010-2016 the ROI is just under 5. That doesn't sound good at first. Because now they only get back half the return compared to before. The fundraising investment increased from 0.9 million euros in 2009 to 5.4 million euros in 2016. But precisely because of that investment KiKa's income grew from 10.1 million to 25.3 million euros in that period. That sounds a lot better. And the net income for KiKa grew from 9.2 million euros in 2009 to 19.8 million euros in 2016. A much better position to help children with cancer.

In 2012 I had already asked the question to Frits Hirschstein, KiKa's founder and executive director, what the main reason was that KiKa was growing so fast:

I can easily answer that for KiKa. We stay very close to the people, so that’s why people know our organisation very well. A few years back we introduced the slogan ‘take action’, which was picked up very practically. By now 3,600 actions are organised every year for KiKa with an average revenue of 2,200 euros! The role of KiKa is to facilitate these actions where necessary. To facilitate all actions we have four people in the office, who respond to incoming mail. It is essential that we always stop by the event to thank the organizers. This can be done by a paid employee or a volunteer. Organizers are sincerely appreciated, so you win ambassadors for your organization. Sometimes there is an action we’re not really happy with. Some time ago they were tattooing for KiKa... if we knew that in advance... But we choose not to be aware of everything in advance, which is not possible anyway with 10 actions per day.
Frits Hirschstein

Frits Hirschstein

KiKa's website says that nowadays, 6 years later, more than 5,000 actions are organised for KiKa annually. And they've started organising their own events as well to expand the community. You can run, bike or ice-skate and raise funds for KiKa. And many people do. In the Dutch market KiKa has claimed this type of fundraising. Many others also do this type of fundraising, but not on the scale that KiKa is doing.

Investment in regular donor acquisition is also part of the success. However, results in that area are logically very much linked to everything else KiKa is doing.

Apart from increasing investment, and a clear donor-centric community building approach, what else is KiKa doing so well? I found this other quote from Frits:

My success formula: always think creatively and look for distinctive concepts. Clear and simple communication. Every day you need to think about the distinctiveness of your brand. Without innovations, growth and success are not possible.

And KiKa has managed to tell her story very well. They have one goal and one goal only: to increase the cure rate to 95% for children living with cancer. A clear and simple message, which is repeated everywhere. And together with their community and peer-to-peer fundraising angle they seem to have touched thousands of Dutch donors. 

Differentiation from the rest of the market is an often-overlooked ingredient for success. But if you want to stand out from the crowd, you need to do something consistently different and that remains true to the heart of your organisation, cause and donors. Apart from the many challenges non-profits already face, differentiation is a big one we should add to our list.

It's easy to say that KiKa is doing so well because of the problem they are trying to solve. Yes, it's easier to raise funds for children with cancer, than most other problems, but as every seasoned fundraiser knows, the fundraising puzzle is much more complicated than just the cause itself.

With the appropriate investment, the clear communication line, the right line-up of fundraising activities that builds an army of ambassadors and sufficiently staffed and well-managed execution, they got something going that is different from the rest of the market.

And that's going to change many lives. We all hope.