- Did we serve our clients well?
- Did we raise as much as possible and what can we learn so we raise more?
- Did we make ourselves known and heard?
- Did people act on what we said and if not why not?
- Are our people happy? Really happy?
- Do the volunteers, donors and supporters get what they want when they want it?
- Do they love us and how can we help them love us more?
- Do we make it easy for our people to do their job and if not what do we need to do differently this year?
- Did we empower, inspire, and lead?
- What systems and processes worked and what didn’t, how can we make them work better?
- What could we stop doing?
- Did we honour our talent?
- Did we invest wisely and what should we invest in next?
- Is our purpose understood?
- Can everyone tell, share and collect the stories that make us connect and if not what do we need to do?
- What products and tools worked and why?
- What were the best moments, the sparkle we will treasure forever – why did this happen?
- Were we inspired and passionate or were we detached, bored and aloof?
- Did we laugh, have any fun, play together?
- What can we learn that helps us be better together and aspire more?
There’s a beauty in the sun burning a London pavement. Bright and hot and very much alive. A bright light shone on me last week.
I was hurtling to the tube, beaming in the summer sunshine. A man sat outside, legs crossed, a small handwritten sign asking for £20 for a hostel. He was in his late thirties maybe, etched with all the trauma of a life on the street. But what made me catch his eye was a small window he chose to show. On his left, he had a wooden box with crayons and pencils. On his lap, a sketching pad, with the face of an unknown commuter stretched out in pencil, a passer-by, a face captured by a very brief moment and a longer reflection. He was observing, drawing, wondering, thinking, all in his isolation.
I sped past. But in an instant, inside the tube station I stopped. Literally. In a further instant, I reached in my pocket and found a crumpled cash note. I turned, found him staring at the stream of faces and leant down, handing him the note….’Keep drawing’ I said….’Take care’. He smiled, thanked me and I returned to the station.
I was puzzled, as I sat on the speeding, hot and crowded train. And then I realised what just past. This man, this human being, in all his circumstances, had just shone his life on mine. There I was, not him, surrounded by crayons and sketchpads and pencils, a small boy, alone, imagining and wondering and trying to connect. I saw me.
What was the gift here? Not my note. Not the moment in the sunshine on a London pavement. The gift was very simple. A truly personal human connection. Ourselves in another. Our fears, our loneliness maybe, our vulnerability. I had just made a gift to another by giving to myself.
We shy from the honesty of such an exchange sometimes. We need to be more honest. Ourselves in others….normal, real and very much alive.
Is it right to have a vision for fundraising. A grand aspiration. It is. I do.
I believe fundraising should be a movement. I believe it needs everyone at every level, at every place, in every corner to feel part of it. I don’t believe in small and narrow. I do believe in big and bold. I believe fundraisers must value their skill, be recognised, acknowledged and demonstrate trust but not by putting themselves above the donor or their cause. I believe in a generous society with generous people supported to be generous at whatever level and through whatever means. I believe in a generous society where people who ask for money and raise money are treated like the saviours and soldiers for change they are. Celebrated, thanked, admired. I believe fundraising is the primary way to make change….it’s not brand, its not logo’s, its work, it’s doing, its reaching, its value, its impact.
I believe in leadership at all levels. I believe technique is secondary and less important than emotional connection and passion. I believe our tools are a means to an end not the end. I believe in gangs of great people. working together and belonging to each other, and feeling a powerful joy in being together for a good reason or cause. I believe that if you are a receptionist or the finance manager or the HR professional or the CEO or the Chairman, you are a fundraiser, that you get it and want more, that you help do it, that you get others to do it. I believe that fundraising is art. I believe its beauty is its creativity, and inspiration and its stories. I believe we need more not less. Whilst we need machines, and process, and technique, and structures, and rules, and standards we need our hearts aligned wherever we are, we need more people wherever they are, we need joined up, together, connected.
I believe we are a movement. A story telling engine of human connection. Our movement is simple – ‘we need you’, ‘will you give’ ‘will you help’ will you make it happen’ ‘will you make a difference’ would it be possible to’. Our movement is positive. It is joy.
We fail community fundraisers. All the time, every day, for years and years. Its time we were honest and did something about it.
I’m not saying community fundraisers are angels or perfect somehow. There’s a pretty long list of let downs you’d probably find far too often in that world. Inability to understand a spreadsheet. Convulsion at the prospect of filling a database in. Moaning about head office.
I’m generalising of course ..and probably very unfair, though I’d challenge you to not recognise a few of these or more characteristics at least somewhere nearby and recently which in itself is not good enough. Move this to one side for now. We are not all perfect. Good and bad, competent and not so is everywhere. But lets face it – its a tough job community. The front line, a real foot soldier, endless challenges, complicated requests, demanding people, conflicting priorities and expectations. It’s hard to get right with such demands. But its even harder when Community Fundraisers aren’t supported. Poor leadership, weak management, process that gets in the way rather than help is too frequent and widespread. Here are 10 specific failings;
- Having poor relationships with community fundraisers, not knowing who they are and not bothering to find out about them
- Displaying an arrogance and superiority complex
- Not understanding or having an affinity with the audience they serve
- Creating pointless rules and process
- Not hearing what’s needed and by when by the Community Fundraiser, who wants to help the supporter, and not delivering what’s needed and when, having involved everyone who doesn’t need to be involved
- Creating materials and tools for the field that don’t work, haven’t been thought through and that have nothing to do with the target audience
- Requiring reporting on things that don’t matter every 10 minutes rather than reporting the things that do
- Making the brand the principle excuse or reason to do the wrong thing or worse nothing at all
- Not taking responsibility to fix things or solve things, even when its their job and then leaving the Community Fundraiser to fix it, only to then be told off when they do because they didn’t do it right
- Not taking time to train people, not integrating, not joining up, not being part of and behaving as if Community is from another planet
This failure is in all of us. And it’s not good enough. But, failing can be good if we learn, adapt and move on. So can we do that? Are we able to be better? Probably, but only with goodwill, openness, honesty, a respect for the audience, an understanding of roles, some systems and processes that are efficient and effective, a brand that works at all levels and is pragmatic and flexible, standards that are adhered to, and above all – relationships, integration and the final two saviours – donor first and leadership.
Here’s to the Independents alternative to The Sunday Times Rich List. The seventh annual Independent on Sunday Happy List – 100 people who, without thought of personal gain, give back and help others, rather than themselves.
Founded as an antidote to all those rich lists and celebrity lists, it celebrates a different set of values, embracing those who start charities, help troubled youngsters, give huge amounts of time to volunteering and raising money, foster children, care for wildlife, and much more.
It’s a joy. An inspiration. Celebrate.
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.
- Every story should be heard, acknowledged and shared. Every story. It’s all personal.
- Charity staff should attend at least once wherever you work, whatever you do. It’s the most perfect opportunity to connect with donors
- Every family member and member of each runners group need as much recognition, love and looking after as each runner. They are as important
- Shared experience never dies. Connect them, keep them together, share memories and through them inspire others
- 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……”