You really should meet Lucy Perry.

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Speaking at a Commonwealth Bank event for NFPs last year Brett was hugely impressed by CEO of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia Lucy Perry who delivered a presentation that ranks as the best of its type.

“I train people in marketing,” he recalls. “I present about marketing. Lucy Perry gave the best NFP marketing presentation I have seen. Including mine. Damn her to hell.” Hootville spoke to Lucy about marketing and communications:

Do some NFPs forget that they are in the marketing game whether they want to be or not?

My team runs a dedicated communications and fundraising company on a business model. We don’t run the hospital in Ethiopia. We FUND it. So our team here focusses on marketing and fundraising all day long! We don’t get dragged into the mechanics of program delivery. I have always treated this as a world class company, delivering awesome communication to a targeted audience. I think it is a mistake for not-for-profits to think they are a poor charity that has to beg for everything or that they compete with each other. Get the marketing right and charities can access support that wasn’t even up for grabs before they made the needs of the organisation accessible and rewarding for the right people.

The many faces and hair colours of Lucy Perry.


You’ve got lots of work to do. Why do you leave the office to speak face-to-face with people? What does this achieve?

Great question. There are several million good reasons to go keynote speaking. Here are the top five:

1. My speaker’s fees bring in a LOT of funding our work in Ethiopia. My entire speaker’s fee goes to the charity so that long after my keynote is delivered, the impact of those funds will have ripple effects in Ethiopia for years to come. My public speaking is now a significant income stream for Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia – up to a quarter of a million dollars a year. Enough to fund one of our regional hospitals in Ethiopia.

2. Speaking engagements spread the word about what is essentially a niche charity but I package that up with other subject matter that conference organisers can’t get enough of. You think you’re attending a speech about social media? By the end of that speech, you’ve learned a lot about social media but you’ve also seen examples which illustrate the plight of our patients and you’re inspired to take action. It’s a win-win!

3. I have met some of the most fantastic people at some of the best conferences in the world. The other speakers at these events have become important contacts and good friends. I have also learned from seasoned professionals like Bernard Salt (he gives 150 speeches a year) on how to hone my delivery.

4. People in my audiences blow me away. I have met so many awesome humans after I have delivered a killer speech.

5. It’s fun. That’s one of my rules for everything. It has to be fun. I find keynote speaking a lot of fun, I learn a lot from the people I meet and I enjoy entertaining people. I truly hate the hour before a big speech, but after that it’s all fun.


What makes your presentations work so damn well?

I think my presentations hit the spot because I take people on an emotional roller coaster. I make ‘em laugh, I make ‘em cry! I make ‘em laugh again. I keep the pace really nice and fast, I plug my speeches full of stories and have learned the art of emotional storytelling. I sometimes cry when I speak about the patients in Ethiopia. Can’t help it. But it’s authentic and part of who I am and the journey I take my audience on. I never have notes and only speak to slides of images – usually photographs that I have shot myself. I’m pretty confident that there is no other speaker like me in the world. I guess we are all unique!

What role does media coverage play? Is there much interest?
We reach more than 2M people through traditional media every month. This is in addition to our social media reach of more than 20M a month. Given that our core donor profile is professional women who are aged 40 – 70+ traditional media is still an important part of the communication mix. A piece on ABC Radio National is GOLD and will net more donations than a Facebook post.

marketing speakers

Dr Catherine Hamlin. Worthy of a knighthood.

What role does direct mail and print-based comms play for you?
Any good fundraising professional will tell you that if you use cross platform campaigns (email, traditional media, social media AND direct mail) you will have a higher return.

We have two major appeals each year and these are delivered across all platforms including direct mail. So our key support database of 20,000 will see our two major appeals in their inbox, their newsfeed and in their letterbox. If we are on a winner, they’ll also catch an interview on the radio or see a story in a major metro paper.

I think that thanking our donors and retail customers is absolutely essential and while I am the boss, we will always send our donors and customers hand written thank you notes. No matter how big we get!

This is where print media and good old fashioned snail mail are essential. Our volunteers write these thank yous and take the time to personalise each note so that it is meaningful and heartfelt. We are nothing without our donors. Thanking them is an essential part of our relationship with them and print media is the best way to do this.

How the hell do you get such fantastic engagement on social media?
Why thank you! I was forced to get my head around the Facebook algorithm very early on because as a start up, we had no budget. Facebook was free and so it was an important communication platform to wrangle. When Facebook makes changes to it’s policy and announces it to business page admins, I take note! I adjust our Facebook content to maximise the algorithm and make the most of organic reach.

In a nutshell, that means creating original, sharable content that people find sociable and entertaining. Surprise and delight is a handy tool. People love to see something unexpected and humour goes a long way. Users don’t expect a charity curing catastrophic childbirth injuries to be funny or fun. We mix up the humour with spine tingling stories that get the most engagement. My rule of thumb is that if a post made me cry while I was writing it, it will make the followers cry and we have a winner! There are a lot of other little tricks for making the most of Facebook organic reach and I try to use those wherever possible.

More about Hamlin.


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