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)

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