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The magic ingredient to great charity people

13/06/2012

Several charity folks whose opinions I respect (including @lucyinnovation, @rachelbeer, @stevebridger) contributed to a twitter conversation last month about the importance of passion to fundraisers and more broadly to folks who work with charities.

The argument goes that folks who are impassioned by the causes they work with are generally better fundraisers and advocats for that charity than those for whom working there is ‘just a job’.

Any good leader of people and certainly every great sales person I’ve ever come across would share that view outside of the charity sector too… it’s much easier to sell or promote a product that you believe in.

But why?

I’ve been thinking about this question for a little while and one conclusion I’ve come to is that the magic ingredient of passion actually comprises two magic ingredients: energy and empathy.

I had my eureka moment during a recent Skype call with the Chief Executive of a small international development charity, Advantage Africa.  We talked for an hour and a half about the charity’s goals and how the team went about making them a reality for the beneficiaries they support, and in these tough financial and media saturated times, it became clear that just being passionate about a cause might not be enough to be successful.

Passion certainly drives the level of commitment and underpins the willingness to go the extra mile in support of a cause but it doesn’t automatically lead to the outcomes we need to achieve.  So here’s the case for my two magic ingredients:

Empathy

Emotional hooks and triggers drive charitable actions.  Yes, any claims we make need to be backed up by rational facts and evidence but the most powerful hooks that draw people to support a charity are based in the way we make them feel through our actions, our communications and the outcomes we deliver.

Therefore, we need to understand and empathise both with our beneficiary audience and our target supporter audiences to enable us to communicate in a credible and emotionally powerful way.

Energy

This is simply the driving force behind our intentions and our empathy; the thing that turns a great idea into a positive outcome for the audiences we support.  I would go as far to suggest that without the energy to harness and direct our passions, there’s little point in being passionate about any cause as without the resultant, focused action, what good is passion able to deliver on its own?

For leaders, a key factor in success is being able to identify and harness the energy of their teams (including volunteers) which actually means being able to empathise with them first.

In the real world we of course know that people (ie; our target audiences and our teams) are not simple creatures and that it requires more than a couple of magic ingredients to be successful.  But if you could pick only a few ideal qualities to have in your fundraising, marketing and communications people, what would they be?

Let me know via twitter (@kevbaughen) or email (Kevin@bottomlineideas.com) and we’ll publish the most popular.

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