Fundraising poll – who is the most influential?
Right at the outset I will state I’m not asking anyone to vote for anyone in particular in the 2011 Fundraising Magazine’s “Most Influential” poll. In fact, I usually steer clear of the survey as the results don’t always seem valuable to people actually having to do the job of fundraising (see Mark Phillips’ blog on this subject – I share his well-articulated views).
This year, I’m still not going to encourage anyone to vote for anyone else but I do want to talk about how I believe we all need to think a little differently in terms of how we define fundraising and therefore who is really influencing us and perhaps should be influential in the future. Here’s my case:
Whilst we can always improve on our activities, traditional fundraising campaigns are harder than ever to get right. Media saturation, an ever-growing number of organisations and causes to support and significant financial pressures on all of us are issues that will be with us for the foreseeable future.
Even the organisations offering excellent advice (KnowHow Non-profit or SOFII for example) are providing their advice to all-comers which merely increases the level of competition for fundraisers. In my opinion, sustainable success in fundraising is going to come from sustainable thinking within charities and that means, in my opinion, a few key factors:
- We need to remove internal barriers and silos and start to work effectively as broader teams – internal competition for resources and the ear of the limited target audience is only going to commoditise charity communications (including fundraising) in the eyes and ears of the recipients. In a nutshell, turning charity communications of all descriptions into credit card mailings!
- We need to develop strong charity brands which support all the key needs of the specific charity, not just campaigning or fundraising (see previous blogs)
- Stop treating our target audiences as mutually exclusive groups. How many charities don’t ask volunteers for money or legacy donors (holy grail time) if they would be prepared to spare some time as a volunteer?
- To do all of these, we need to think differently. Engage the brains, invite and encourage new ideas and yes, potentially endure a little discomfort in the process of developing more powerful ways of attracting and engaging supporters.
To this end, I think Derek Humphries was on the right track when he campaigned to have the donor recognised as the most influential person for fundraising. But I think we need to move the game along and think about two different groups of influencers.
1. Your beneficiaries
Are our beneficiaries the most influential audience for fundraising in 2011 and 2012? Think about it. We need their support to build and share the powerful stories which persuade others to donate. This encompasses everything from social media to impact reports and back again.
Without them, we would have no evidence of successful outcomes to underpin most forms of fundraising activity. On whose behalf do we need money for in the first place – so doesn’t what they need drive our activity? Where will our long-term advocates come from? Who could and should with our encouragement be driving most of our word-of-mouth recommendation activity in the short-term?
Whose stories and courage (in many cases) attract the volunteers required for much of our fundraising activity to actually be delivered? Just ask any of the volunteers helping the London Marathon teams this last weekend. I bet they all have a personal story to tell which motivates them to support their chosen cause.
2. People who challenged my pre-conceptions
I firmly believe that society is changing faster than ever so it can only be sensible to at least consider that our long-held ideas and practices should be changing to keep up. So, in light of this view and the points above, I’ve listed just a few of the people below who have challenged me to think differently about the big ideas over the last year. I’m not talking about doing something we’ve already done just a bit better, I’m talking about step-change which I believe is going to be necessary for charities to be truly sustainable.
In no particular order…
Rob Dyson, PR Manager at Whizz-Kidz and charity social media guru – ‘builder of communities’ is a bit of a buzz title at the moment but Rob is a communications professional who does just this both for Whizz-Kidz and for the wider charity community. He chooses to share knowledge and insight across the broadest team possible – everyone he comes into contact with! – and personifies my point above about working through silos.
Kevin Kibble, Chief Executive at Transplant Sport UK – A champion of common sense and a defender of change when it’s needed, Kevin’s thinking has forced me to re-evaluate some core ideas around how brands can and should be supporting charities. He won’t thank me for mentioning him here as his views about the poll are similar to mine but he has helped shape my ideas over the last year…
Mark Phillips, founder and CEO of Bluefrog – Mark and I have debated several key ideas over the last year on twitter and disagreed a goodly number of times. Mark is very much a champion of the practising fundraiser and almost because we’ve disagreed as well as agreed, I’ve been able to better serve the charities I work with through adding his views to my own experience in helping with broader strategy.
If you’re going to vote, you could do a lot worse than these guys. If you’re not going to vote, they’re still worth tracking down online and following and I hope they make you think about your preconceptions as much as they have made me think about mine.