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The law of unintended consequences

28/10/2013

We read and hear a lot (not least from me) about the importance of innovation, testing new ideas and thinking our way through challenging times.  BUT… something we don’t often talk about is the law of unintended consequences.

Newton’s laws of motion state that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction… in other words, there is always a knock-on effect of the decisions we make.  Consequences are not always immediately identifiable so we can’t plan for every permutation but wherever possible, we should try to think about what the impact of our ideas will be in the future, before jumping into what seem like great initiatives right now.

One of the best ways to plan for unintended consequences is to share experiences so that we can all incorporate them where possible andGood intentions so here are a few real-world examples (with the names removed to protect the innocent). Read more…

Choose your charity celebrities wisely

10/09/2013

We’ve written about this topic before across a number of blogs but here’s a belting example from this very morning of why you should think carefully about using celebrities.

Here’s a snippet from my email invitation to the Chain of Hope Ball and there are three things wrong with it from my perspective:Chain of Hope Ball invitation

  1. The fist two scrolls are full of celebrities darling, and nothing about what the event is for ie; the cause you’re asking me to support
  2. The celebrities and entertainment picked seem to be the product of who was available rather than targeted at the (likely) wealthy attendees in any cohesive manner
  3. Jeffrey Archer is a convicted perjurer.  A liar on a significant level… and I’m supposed to be impressed that he is running the  charity auction!

And let me add that not putting the price for tickets anywhere doesn’t make your event seem exclusive in the ‘Tattler society page’ way that you hope it does… it makes you seem like you haven’t really targeted your audience well enough to send this kind of email invitation.

So, don’t use liars to promote your cause, don’t assume your audience thinks your cause is less important than rubbing shoulders with ‘celebrities’ (because it isn’t) and try to target people who actually care.  Rant over.

Starting a new Charity Job

06/09/2013

In the same week I received a video rehash of ‘what fundraising directors should do in their first 100 days’ and my wife was offered a new job. Having watched the video and re-read Kivi Leroux Miller’s free guide (click on the image), I started to think that there is a pretty healthy list of other things a new fundraiser can do that

Free Guide from Kivi Leroux Miller

Free Guide from Kivi Leroux Miller

aren’t so ‘strategic’ to help start a new role in the right way.

I should explain what I mean by right; setting strong foundations to be effective beyond that honeymoon (however long it is). Here’s an experienced-based list of things I think we could all consider when the time is right for a move:

  • Get to know your team, colleagues, peers and boss. So much is written about the efficacy of emotions and personal connections to a cause in fundraising activity, so spend time getting to know those around you on that level. Being able to empathise and relate to your teams makes working together in such an environment easier, particularly if times get tougher and you all need to find that ‘something extra’. Read more…

The problem with being ‘competitive’

28/08/2013

Organisational wisdom tells us that businesses and charities alike have to be ‘competitive’ to survive.  But what does that mean exactly?

If you ask a business it means making sure everything from pricing to product or service delivery is done to a high standard that attracts customers.  Let’s be honest though; in an increasingly commoditised world market place the reality is perhaps closer to doing things to a minimum standard that doesn’t encourage your customers to look elsewhere.  Being ‘competitive’ is more like an organisation’s ticket to the game and once there, they have to find other ways of encouraging customers to choose them specifically. Read more…

Can effective fundraising ever be unethical?

08/08/2013

Does the end always justify the means?  Does innovation always lead to an improvement?  Today’s blog is an open question around a service I’m sure many of you have come across this year – as I have recently.  Here’s the story…

A few entrepreneurial groups have started to work with funeral directors across the UK to look after some of the administration around in-memoriam giving.  The companies engage directly with funeral directors to take moneys collected at services or in lieu of flowers and promise to deal directly with the charities concerned, saving the funeral directors time.

There is no charge to the funeral directors for this service so it’s relatively simple to see the appeal of passing all of the administration around dealing with charities to a third party.

The companies then contact the charities concerned and offer to send the money collected minus a fee – some offering gift aid services (although I’m not sure how this is achieved given the anonymous nature of funeral donations) and suggesting that the fee comes out of that extra amount.

The charity can’t send a thank you and receipts to the family (as they would with direct relationships with funeral directors) or manage their records efficiently for future activity because the money arrives anonymously.  There is also no direct link to the funeral directors or the families so no idea of exactly how much has been collected.

Perhaps the key factor is that the donor doesn’t know their donation is reaching the desired charity minus a fee.  Perhaps this doesn’t matter to some, but I wonder…

In one instance related to me by a practising fundraiser, the charity was told that they would pretty much have to deal with this particular organisation as they had hundreds of funeral directors signed up with more to follow.

So, the ROI is great.  The administration burden on charities is low and the funeral directors have perhaps a more simple process for handing over collections.  But is it ethical for this innovation to hide from donors that their donation isn’t going to the cause in its entirety?

Do please register your thoughts on the poll and we’ll share the findings with our readers.

Can you suffer from Twitter withdrawal?

24/07/2013

All the training I’ve been on and blogs I’ve read suggest that you shouldn’t start using tools like Twitter for your organisations if you can’t keep it up.  Little and often is the key according to those who know far more than me.

I was delivering workshops for most of last week and didn’t use Twitter at all for three days.  Once I got to this point, I decided to hold out for Twitter withdrawalthe rest of the week as an experiment to see what would actually happen for me personally and for our organisation.  Here’s what we noticed.

For the organisation

  • Sounds obvious but I had fewer inbound email requests for free help and advice from charities – and we usually get at least a good handful every week
  • No new sector events have come to my attention and been added to my calendar beyond those we proactively target anyway
  • I have no idea what various sector thinkers and experts have added to the collective ‘knowledge’ Read more…

enough buzzwords – more action

11/07/2013

I followed the Institute of Fundraising National Convention’s twitter stream with interest last week and was, like many of my friends and colleagues in the sector, amazed at just how many times certain words, phrases or ideas came to the fore.

Lucy Gowar’s latest blog sums it up nicely around the use of the word innovation every other sentence!success or failure direction sign

What amazes me is that here at Bottom Line Ideas we’ve been talking to Trustees, managers and junior team members for over five years about the importance of understanding and managing, not avoiding, risk.  In fact, these blog pages are littered with ideas and thoughts on the subject.  But when a handful of ‘gurus’ talk about the same thing, we must all of a sudden pay attention to the concepts of risk, failure, innovation and learning from them to move us all forwards.

Duh!

Don’t misunderstand me, I’m grateful to the likes of the afore-mentioned folks for raising the issue so publicly and refreshing it in the minds of the charity sector audience, but this isn’t new and it isn’t news.  The fact that the subject of the sector’s risk aversion / fear of ‘the new’ is still making plenary session speeches is just depressing! Read more…

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