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Middle managers. Salt of the earth. Engines for action. Guardians of delivery. Middle managers need love and attention if they are to do what needs to be done to make things happen. Coaching, nudging, counselling and direction.

The leadership deficit affects middle managers. Unsure of above they can’t shine for below. Looking sideways they find solace in colleagues so they often look like a gang, projecting a tribal confidence. Sometimes they struggle because they are over promoted. Sometimes they struggle because they are too talented but locked in. Sometimes they just long to get on with it. Deliver and excel. Glow.

So here’s some helpful wisdom and tips for the much-needed tribe of middle managers

1. Keep looking above you – understand your boss and their needs and challenges. If you fail they fail. Help them.

2. Keep learning. You must grow. It’s your duty to yourself, so keep learning and improving

3. Build space for yourself. Room to think and reflect. Space to resolve and perspective to get it right

4. Be self-aware and open. Ask for feedback. Every now and then only, or you will look needy rather than open. Be aware of how you behave, why and when and correct where you need to

5. Know yourself. What are your strengths? Do them every day. Don’t worry about your weaknesses except if you are doing a job that is your weakness. If so move.

6. Define success – Be clear on what success looks like. You, them, everybody.

7. Focus on next but never forget what’s gone – Have a view on whats next but also what’s past – goals and KPIs, a to do list yes but more important a rolling done list

8. Build your portfolio – Your marketing brochure for you, your personal brand and offer and evidence

9. Listen to your people – They are smart. Not always right but that’s irrelevant. Listen to facts, emotion, feelings, fears and hopes. Then act.

10. Focus everyone on the external – Heres the order to where you need to look – the world, the donor, the cause, the work, the organisation, the team. Everyone works better when they focus on what really matters

Rise up middle managers. Lead from the middle. More power than anyone – so use it wisely and for the right reasons.

 

listening

There is an essential logic in fundraising. Hearts, minds and cash. The mantra for this is no gift is made without emotion to drive it.  The moment you connect. A close spark or bond created. This remains true above all with legacy gifts. But we often focus on function first – wills, probate, tax. Maybe we are scared. Maybe we don’t  understand. Maybe we don’t know. Either way it’s not where transformational legacy gifts sit and it’s not where donors start.  Here’s 10 emotional connections for legacy fundraising to get you connecting

  1. Find your founder story and relive it though the eyes of your founders
  2. Systematically collect and share stories
  3. Recognise long-term consideration of a gift will start with an emotional connection
  4. Understand the motivation for giving is emotional and won’t always be remembered
  5. Teach your organisation to be able to have a legacy conversation as you would to a trusted friend
  6. Show the work and the inspirational transformation made by legacy gifts
  7. Join up legacy admin so its part of the gift process and joy of giving
  8. Do everything possible to make face to face happen
  9. Reassure donors about their fears and barriers – soothe them
  10. Find and use your own personal connection to legacies

So – uncover the emotion, dig deep, be brave, open your hearts – but above all, connect.

facts or myths determine

We need trustees. Good ones, calm ones, listening ones. But sometimes, some of our trustees believe weird things. Like conspiracy theories that gain currency, some trustees can interpret their understandable and limited knowledge with the gossip and hearsay that sometimes surround fundraising. A dangerous and toxic mix we need to avoid if we are to move forward. So here are a few we hear every so often and a few slightly exasperated yet young in cheek responses I am sure we have all felt but may not have said.

  1. You don’t need to spend money to raise money – Yes well it’s all for free isn’t it, like lunch or a free gift. Except it isn’t. It costs. Simple as.
  2. You can get your money back really fast – McDonald’s are to blame for this one. In some cases you can. But for most, well we need to be patient and plan
  3. Fundraising is like selling really – Well to be fair it is isn’t it….well it isn’t. So accepting some similarities for ease, we need time to expand this one, but for now it just isn’t
  4. Fundraisers are responsible for raising money – it’s not everyone else’s job – No comment.
  5. We don’t really need to pay staff to raise money – Frankly we aren’t worth it to be honest. Why pay? See 1.
  6. We spend too much on admin and overheads – Define? Exactly. Please someone. Watch Dan Pallotta and discuss.
  7. We need a new audience – Completely. Nasty old rich people a? You know the ones giving us the money right now, lets ignore them and go elsewhere more trendy?
  8. We are ok not to tell people what the money is for – Cash machines, walking wallets, etc. Contempt breeds contempt
  9. We know best – By yourself you don’t. With professionals working together, we know enough to get the job done and done well

So these are the myths that sometimes surface. Chase them and confront them. But before it gets to that, educate, explain, inform. And remember, all it takes for nonsense to triumph is for good people to say nothing

pantheon

A signature on a work of art can be a powerful statement. Or a name on the spine of a book. Or the credits rolling at the end of a film. It’s a claim of art, of creation, of work delivered. I wonder then, why, if everyday when we make something that changes worlds, we are less keen to claim its creation?

Sitting in a cafe last year, drinking a beer in the fading sunlight of an early spring afternoon outside the Pantheon in central Rome, I pondered on the creation before me. The Pantheon is magnificent. Inside its huge dome, held aloft by granite and concrete, the largest free-standing concrete dome anywhere is focussed on a perfect circle – an oculus at 142ft that shines the dimming sun through to the marble and stone space below. When it rains the water flows through and down into a hidden drain – snow is said to be magical. Its doors from the 15th century overshadow the vast space around it. Outside 16 pillars hold aloft the triangle roof and the huge, majestic latin words across the front. No doubt a noble call to arms or a bold statement to the glory of Rome or god or life. The words – lost in meaning to most, dominant the square below.

M·AGRIPPA·L·F·COS·TERTIVM·FECIT

Closer inspection however, reveals the real meaning “M[arcus] Agrippa L[ucii] f[ilius] co[n]s[ul] tertium fecit,” meaning “Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, made [this building] when consul for the third time”

So it’s that simple. One of the great wonders of the world – I made this. A signature. Graffiti. A roman selfie. Huge. Enshrined forever.

Maybe we are too modest. Maybe we collaborate so we can hide. Maybe the creation is not recognised or understood. Maybe as time moves on we revise history and our claims are forgotten. Maybe we are content to hold them to ourselves and forsake the public display of ‘ I  made this’. Either way, when people all around us make and do things that change the world for good, maybe we could shout a little more, be a little bolder. Here’s to Marcus Agripp. I made this.

Good on you Marcus.

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At the heart of every legacy gift is always a story. It’s a currency that runs strong and is rarely devalued. Sometimes visible, most often not. Sometimes shared, sometimes celebrated. But most, if we are honest are forgotten, if found at all.

Presenting on legacy strategy recently, I focused on the power of story. One questioner from the floor, asked what was needed to find stories. How can you collect and where from? I told her that they are all around and we just need to be mindful and then ask the question. Look to your donors, executors, volunteers, programme staff, founders and fundraising staff. Ask them, train them and give yourself a place where you collect and share.

Later in the day, the very brilliant Michael Clark from Cystic Fibrosis Trust, was talking about why gifts can come from people you don’t know or have never met and that for them they had a connection we will often never know. He talked of a very large gift from a man who was not known to them but on his death he had shared his reasons for the gift in his will.

One day he was sitting in a park and watching the world go by on a break when his peace was disturbed by a young child whose cough was loud, consistent and disturbing to him. He asked the mother if the child was alright. The mother told him her son has Cystic Fibrosis and this was level of coughing was normal and daily. She thanked him for asking and disappeared from his life. A moment he never forgot. And from that a legacy gift and from that a legacy story.

There is no marketing involved here, except the moment when that donor sought out the charity as the means to make the gift. It was a human moment that germinated for a long time. A human moment driven by a story and connection.

Stories and connections are our currency.  How much better would we be if we were just able to ask, listen and share?

Standout_Strawberry

I used to know a brilliant fundraiser who had a habit of ordering her notes and papers on a table as if she had used a set square. I often found myself knocking them out of the precise angle she had set which caused great stress to her and mild amusement to me. This is the wrong form of disruption. I apologise unreservedly.

We are now entering an era of massive disruption. This will be in the way we ask, the way we organise ourselves and the way we deliver results. Our methods require the disruption of lives so we can ask on the scale we need to, to address the problems in the world we want to solve. This has changed already and we are going to need to be much more flexible, pragmatic, proactive and most of all brave. Many people get lost between Innovation and Disruption. Forbes and The Economist have a done great articles on the distinction, but essentially disruption is a shift, a change in thinking and behaving and the invention of new and better. Simple version below.

innovation-continuum

We think of disruption as huge stuff. Uber and taxis. Apple and tech. Facebook and Twitter. But small disruption is needed too. Small can mean a change in thinking, behaviour, invention of new and better by different. Creative disruption to shift behaviour from the current norm to a new place. What can that look like in a small way that can have a big impact? What can you do on a day-to-day basis that stirs things up for good? How do you mess the papers organised with the set square?

So, simple things. How about disrupting the way you work? How about changing the reporting so it matters? About how you thank people. How about shifting back the responsibility for a process to the person who is supposed to do the process? How about you get them to meet a donor? How about a donors sign off? How about replacing meetings with 20 minute time frames – no action then stop. How about creative disruption in direct mail or legacies or digital where you create a different view or message, where you go with a hunch and just see? How about disruption in your team meeting – get out of the room and visit something together or create something together – a problem you keep ignoring. How about removing one approval a day and letting someone decide for themselves? Disrupt and challenge because you want to see and be better. How about changing the rules or even better getting rid of them?

How about brand new?

The list can be endless. But the mind that adopts creative disruption with small steps can make things happen and for the right reasons that lead to big steps.

Have a go. #disrupt4good. Ideas on a tweet please.

The-bottom-view-of-the-feet
As we continue to respond to the ideological drama around fundraising and the many solutions and challenges being shared, here are my top 10 priorities for a new chapter to get back on the front foot.

Priorities are not an exhaustive list – there are other things we can do. But this list tries to capture the key actions that could make the biggest difference.

  1. Work to create and promote fundraising expertise and experience at the heart of self-regulation and other key organisations
  2. Focus on consent, opt out, behaviour, inspiration and impact – and call it consent not opt in
  3. Build a better and closer relationship and understanding with statutory, regulatory and partner bodies – ICO, DMA etc
  4. Put the donor at the centre and the heart of each organisation and charity through better leadership
  5. Train people in charities at all levels and in every role to reframe their job outcomes around the donor and the cause, connecting them with our lifeblood
  6. Reassert trustees ‘appropriate’ control and governance, and stress ‘appropriate’
  7. Agree a model of fundraising governance to trustees and train them to a consistent approach
  8. Create a coalition of key organisations, charities, bodies and individuals to deliver a campaign to defend, educate, promote and inspire the public about fundraising – build a new deal and understanding around a new language or narrative
  9. Challenge weak and poor leadership at every level
  10. Look after and inspire with confidence the new wave of fundraisers and protect them and nurture them

We have much to be proud about. But pride needs to flourish from confidence. And confidence comes from getting on the front foot.

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