Friday, 28 December 2012

New year, new resolutions

For a gift, I was recently given this book. It was a fascinating read because to be honest when I think of Mother Teresa the word CEO is not the first thing that comes to mind. In truth she was a great business woman and in terms of what she achieved - taking a world-wide organisation through every phase of growth over 40 odd years, her accomplishment was quite something. 

Mother Teresa lived and led by several principles and because it will soon be the time of reflection and resolutions - these principles are definitely worth sharing.

1. Dream it simple, Say it strong - create a simple vision, communicate it clearly in words and actions. This could apply to a fundraising proposition or equally apply to how you choose to approach any objective.  More generally it could be your chosen modus operandi - but the idea of living your values is very inspiring.

2. To get to the angels, deal with the devil - this is about being clear on how you make decisions and how you evaluate them them against your own values.  We all have to compromise some times or make difficult decision, so it's about having a framework to deal with those decisions.

3. Choose your moment - I love this one, as it isn't about caution it is just about being ready and prepared, so get all your ducks in a row as the saying goes before you start.

4. Embrace the power of doubt - Again this is actually very positive. A need to apply some rigour in what you do and just constantly question what you are doing and ask if it can be done better.  Undoubtedly it can.

5. Discover the joy of discipline - take your work seriously but never yourself.

6. Communicate in a language people understand - this one really doesn't really need any explanation and applies equally to fundraising messaging as it does to how you interact with people day-to-day.  After all if people don't understand what you want or what you are asking for then how will you ever get it.

7. Pay attention to the janitor  - Obviously an American book by the term janitor but I think this is a really important point and one people can be very blinkered about.  Inspiration and insight can come from anywhere or anyone  and everyone has value so open your mind to it.

8. Use the power of silence - listen!  In a world of a lot of noise and in and industry of opinion and a lot of it, some times it is just wise to watch and listen and take away from all the noise what is useful to you.

I have of course paraphrased these principles and the book - but I found them refreshing and a nice check list going into the new year.  What you take from them is entirely up to you as with all things it is very much about interpretation.  But I hope you have found them interesting at the very least.

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year and thanks as ever for stopping by.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Need? Shall I just do it myself?

Recently, I attended the IOFs Fundraising session on unpopular causes and though I think 'unpopular' is possibly the wrong word, there were certainly some causes represented that you could fairly call 'niche'.

For me the session provided some interesting reminders and although directed at the 'unpopular' many were pertinent on a wider level - including the idea of 'keeping it simple'.

This refers to the message and the proposition of your organisation; you can't tell the whole story all at once and neither should you try.  Obvious stuff, as these things usually are, but it is amazing how often we can forget.

 A great example for me of an organisation that is really clear on what it is focusing on: the focus is prevention, the audience is Generation Y who are sick of family and friends dying from what is often a preventable disease and it has the fantastically unconventional if not direct name of Fu@K Cancer.  

Digging a bit more into how Fu@k Cancer came to be, here is this TEDx talk from the charity's inspirational founder, Yael Cohen.

The insight into her as someone affected by cancer and as a member of Generation Y was really fascinating (and warrants another post in its own right) - but what else was really interesting to me is what Yael's motivations to establish the organisation in the first place possibly suggests about how other such causes are relating to and empowering people to support them. 

Why do people feel the need to establish an organisation themselves rather than rely on already established charities to do their job? Are charities failing to show people that they are having an impact in what they were set up to do? Does it all feel too slow? Is this just applicable to Generation Y? Is there a real gap in the market?

This may be a little contentious and moving at a bit of a tangent but as I see more and more organisations set-up to do something that many others say they are already doing ......I can't help but wonder. 

What does this mean for how organisations are motivating the public? Okay so not everyone is like Yael and will establish a charity. But for those people who are affected by an issue your organisation is working on or who is a potential supporter - are we sending the message that we are doing a good job? Are we explicit about what we do and vitally what we are achieving? Are we showing our point of difference? Are we showing any need?

Or has the organisation become so concerned about being PC about their work, the beneficiaries and how they are viewed that the passion as to why the organisation was established in the first place is lost and thus has made them (appear) less effective?
Stephen pigeon recently highlighted some of the impact of this here. 

There is not a jot of science behind this but I asked a few people their views on the matter. One, a generous charitably minded person with a kind heart and a huge social conscience said of charities: 

"Many charities do not differentiate themselves well enough to encourage my specific support. It is oh that's just the same again. And then you have to ask what all of these charities have achieved on the issue.  You don't hear of many causes that have closed their doors because they have done what they have set out to do." - Janine Cusack, great human being.

Then I asked the founder of Awamu why she set-up a charitable enterprise: 

"There was a need which I couldn't afford to help myself. Because I wanted others to see how fantastic the people were, because I wanted to engage my friends in a way that would interest them and because I wanted to do something, more quickly than the slowness of a big organisation." - Emma Scullion, Inspirational founder of Awamu

At the end of the day it all comes down to need.  To see a need  and to feel able to do something about it, a need to know that you are helping that need to be met.  A need to know you are making a difference.  Some of us can act upon that by setting up an organisation - but for most of us we need to know we are making a difference and thus that the organisation is actually achieving its mission - no matter how slow the progress.  And we certainly need to work harder in making sure that message comes across.

Charity sees the need and not the cause - German proverb.

Thanks as ever for stopping by and Merry Christmas :O)