The sun is shining. Early morning London stirs, its arteries held for the later procession of humanity. Road side places are captured, banners are hung, flags are raised as bleary eyed runners and families emerge from planes, trains and tubes. The stories are about to begin.

There are few words that sum up the unique and humbling collection of inspiration that is The London Marathon. Every year, from near and far, 36,000 take to the streets to achieve their personal challenge spurred on by a story. It may be their own recovery or survival, or it may be their memory of someone they love or have loved. Perhaps some connection they made that sparked a promise to do this huge feat to support a cause, some personal promise to another, some private moment we may never know. All matter. It’s a celebration of everything remarkable. Its spirit.

In the roads around the running stories are more stories. Streets swelling with crowds of families, friends, volunteers, charity staff, onlookers detached but swept up in the atmosphere. Hand made notes mingle with branded balloons and the noise of names called, and charities shouted for, and fancy dressed brave eccentrics sprinkling the never-ending tide of vests, numbers and names. Every one a story. The mother or father seeing their son or daughter defiant and alive achieve. The children, anxious for a glimpse of mum and their pride at their triumph. The partners who woke at 6 every day as their loved ones drove themselves to this beautiful sunday. Groups of supporters raising money because that is the best way they can help out, take part, belong, do their bit. Charity staff whose whole day for weeks, even months is taken up with the love, care and nurturing of their team. Charity staff who have turned up to cheer, first timers and veterans, and volunteers and supporters anxious to lift their people and help carry them over the line.

Story is at its heart. Struggle, resolution. No one leaves the London Marathon quite the same. Its humbling and inspiring, its dramatic, its warm and human, its full to the brim of the best where ordinary meets extraordinary. Monday, sore feet and legs, and the glow of Sundays achievement can soon get forgotten. So what can we learn and maybe do differently or a little better in the glow of sunday sunshine. 5 reflections.

  1. Every story should be heard, acknowledged and shared. Every story. It’s all personal.
  2. Charity staff should attend at least once wherever you work, whatever you do. It’s the most perfect opportunity to connect with donors
  3. Every family member and member of each runners group need as much recognition, love and looking after as each runner. They are as important
  4. Shared experience never dies. Connect them, keep them together, share memories and through them inspire others
  5. What could be better next time and how? The best time to make next year really wow is in the next few weeks

Not every one can do a marathon. But everyone should bow their heads in respect to the amazing culmination of personal journey and collective good. It’s what we are about.







Bruce Forsyth is retiring from Strictly Come Dancing. When interviewed, Karen Hardy the dance partner of Mark Ramprakash who won in 2006 told a story of how they had a wardrobe malfunction on air, resulting in the dance being completed ruined. Bruce ran on to the floor, sweeping up a random partner to dance with, and to everyone’s amusement and relief kept the show going.

In the dressing room afterwards, Karen and Marc went to apologise to Bruce. They felt they had let everyone down including him. He was surprised and then turned to them and looking them in the eye he said “But Karen…..those are the moments I live for”. Nice.

Maybe it takes insight from age or experience or a conscious nudge from outside, but its a special place to get to when you can connect with the moments you live for. They are not always obvious. They dont’ happen every day. They may be in the work you do, or the life you lead or hopefully both. They may not be earth shattering like discovering a planet, but whatever they are, they are a cherry on the top. A moment to savour and satisfy.

Can we connect with our moments to live for? The simple things – a smile from your child on their first day at school, a hot cross bun and a cup of tea from your nana on a monday morning, an ‘I love you’ from your special one. Or a thing discovered, made, fixed or built, or the delivery of a result or outcome you made happen. Or the climbing of a mountain or river crossed or challenge achieved. Or the place visited, the beer in foreign bars, the coffee in the streets of Florence, the crescendo of a concert or chorus, the eyes in a portrait that are looking at only you. Or is it the roar of a crowd when you perform, a moment of public inspiration and insight when you make someone connect or a private breakthrough when someone is better because of what you did right there, right then.

I know you all have moments to live for – it’s just I’m not sure we all know honestly what they are. If we did, if we knew, wouldn’t we find more…wouldn’t we?

As Bruce would say ….”Nice to see you…to see you nice……”


The Sunday Times 100 Best not-for-profit organisations to work for reveals some intriguing insights and a few juicy challenges

Of the 100 listed in the not-for-profit list, only 21 are classed as ‘charities’. 53 are in housing. The rest assorted social enterprises. Of the top 10 – 9 are housing and the 10th is a new charity. With over 180,000 charities in the UK, the top 100 might give a small clue as to the state of people leadership across the sector and why the housing sector is roaring ahead with its people. Is it the sector? Is it culture, leadership? Is it about the roles and functions of an organisation? Just being deliberate?

In a recent Charity Pulse survey as reported by DJS Research, and undertaken by Third Sector and Birdsong Charity Consulting, figures show that among fundraisers job satisfaction has risen a tenth (10%) in 2013, now totalling three fifths (65%) of employees who are satisfied with their job.

However, In contrast, fewer than half (45%) believe they receive sufficient training / development to do their job well, as opposed to more than three fifths (65%) in 2008. Additionally the number of individuals likely to recommend their charity as an employer dropped – large charities came off worst seeing figures decline by a fifth (21%) from 2007.

Whilst there is more being done to engage staff, with ACEVO for instance issuing guidelines on engagement, the reality is we have a long way to go – and it will be crucial for the survival and success of the sector. How is it possible where our business is about doing good, that some of us struggle to get  this right? Why do too many of us miss the mark when we should be excelling everywhere instead of a few places?  So what can we do?  Here’s a starter. Below are the criteria used in the Sunday Times Top 100. How many of us know the answers here? How many of us are deliberate about improving in these areas?

  1. Leadership: How employees feel about the head of the company and its senior manager
  2. Wellbeing: How staff feel about the stress, pressure and the balance between their work and home duties
  3. Giving something back: How much companies are thought by their staff to put back into society generally and the local community
  4. Personal growth: To what extent staff feel they are stretched and challenged by their job
  5. My manager: How staff feel towards their immediate boss and day-to-day managers
  6. My company: Feelings about the company people work for as opposed to the people they work with
  7. My team: How staff feel about their immediate colleagues
  8. Fair deal: How happy the workforce is with their pay and benefit

If our business is about people. About changing lives. About making a difference. Then we ought to invest a bit more in the very people who might make it happen.

6849069753_4ab0ff4553_zLooking for stories, understanding them, capturing them and sharing them requires a mindset as much as practical tools. It all starts with defining what’s right in front of you, and then working out from there. In an article on storytelling for the Fundraiser magazine, i created five very practical things you can do to take action and become the master storyteller that every fundraiser really should be.

  1. Find your story. You are the connection and the storyteller, so make sure you know your own story and can retell it. Write it down as a letter. Hone it into different versions, including a final short one. Find the emotional connection in your story to your cause and organisation, and relive it.
  2. Connect with your organisation’s story. Find the story of how your organisation came about, the people behind the organisation and their lives. What happened, and how did their story make your organisation possible? Find today’s stories, too – the ones that show the continuing work and passion of your founders.
  3. Build your toolkit. Start with your eyes and ears – use them! Then get your smart phone working for you with apps that help you make notes, tools that dictate and record voices, video and still image cameras that capture words and pictures. Alongside this, get a beautiful notebook, a pen and a clean page – and write each story down. Become a collector.
  4. Find ‘narrators’. Build a tribe of people who will actively find and collect stories. It will change the culture of your organisation into an active storytelling world. It involves and engages others, inspiring them and, in turn, becoming infectious. Create a place to store and share these stories. Study other charities and brands that get it right, and learn from them.
  5. Ask. Use the three perfect questions: 1) How did you get involved? 2) What’s your story? 3) How has this made a difference? These work equally on donors, volunteers, supporters and staff. They are open questions, and allow people to be natural. Prompt sometimes, but listen and capture – then share

For a more in-depth look at storytelling, read the longer piece in Fundraiser

A second salute in two weeks. Barnardo’s ad is brave and hits hard. A clever contrast that highlights stolen childhoods for so many children with the difference that care and support can make. It could have done with a tighter call to action at the end…but good for Barnardo’s for not shying away from a subject that needs this level of directness.

Great stories get lost because they are often poorly told. The story-teller matters as much as the story. Simple, clear, emotional and true. Sometimes, we try too hard – when simple then becomes unexpected. Here is a brilliant one from a series for Marie Curie Cancer Care.

2535935479_dde4457b43_z3 things. Giles Pegram always summarised his genius at key points with the phrase 3 things. Always right. In time, we all learnt the art. Three things. So here are three things about three things

Why do we say things in threes? The Philly Times gives a good summary. Deep stuff, a real insight. So, we have Giles summing up in three. And now my second three. Once I had some amazing training from Richard Olivier, son of Lord Olivier. He used Shakespeare’s Henry V to illustrate leadership, a sort of metaphor for modern-day corporate or sector leadership . He told us that Henry built his grand project around his allies – his first third. But he was conflicted over two other groups – critics and naysayers. He pondered about these two groups. Critics he decided he needed. They added value and a check against excess, a test for reality and to help you get it right. Naysayers – they needed to die. They were the project killjoy, the underminers, the force to stop something, to subvert it. Naysayers = death.

The challenge for Henry was to diagnose this correctly. A heavy price to pay if he got it wrong. In modern terms death may a bit extreme, but anyone with the experience of knowing a naysayer, will smile with the notion “if only”. So three things. Allies. Critics. Naysayers.
Most teams have their own thirds rule. I have practised this art for years and here it is. One third of the team you start with or inherit will be right, the gang to keep and build. One third wont be. They need facing. Addressing in whatever appropriate way, but they need addressing. You know in your heart it wont work, it’s not right and divorce is the only way – kindly. The final third – you dont know. You are open. With the right leadership, direction and conditions who knows. But you need to find out. Almost every team has this.
So three things. Firstly, sum up with three things. We remember three. Secondly, keep your friends, embrace you critics and kill your naysayers (metaphorically of course). And finally, build your teams honestly with the gang its going to work with, deal with the gang it wont work with and help the gang you aren’t sure about to step up.
No HR policies were damaged or compromised willingly in the writing of this hopefully helpful guide to the wonder of three.

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