The Annual Lectures 2014: Highlights and Recurring Themes

By Chris Washington-Sare
On December 8, 2014 At 2:00 pm

Category : governance, individuals, Latest posts, leadership, opinion, strategy

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inspireWith 2014 drawing to a close, for many of us thoughts turn to what 2015 has in store. It’s an ideal time to get inspiration from some of the fundraising industry’s brightest brains. And what better place to do this than at the Revolutionise Annual Lectures.

18 speakers in 8 hours boded well for a fast-paced, punchy day of insights. So did it deliver? Here’s what I took home:

We Need to Change The Culture of Fundraising
A recurring theme throughout the day: it’s up to fundraisers to change the culture of fundraising – not only within their own organisations but also within society at large. Many fundraisers (myself included) believe that fundraising cannot carry on the way it is going. Acquisition costs are increasing, attrition rates are not declining and on the whole donor engagement activities are woefully inadequate and ineffective.

Fundraisers need to be the change we want to see. Alan Clayton summed it up succinctly by observing that we work in a negative sector: Not-for-Profit or Non-Government. Only in the third sector do we describe ourselves as what we are not. As fundraisers we know that positivity engages people more effectively than negativity.

So with this in mind, maybe Profit-With-Purpose is a more appropriate name for the sector. After all it is the social purpose that sets us apart. from commercial, for-profit organisations. Alan speaks a lot of sense. Who’s up for a change? Count me in.

We Must Change The Words We Use
Continuing with the theme of words, Ken Burnett made a heart-felt plea to change the way we use words. Across the auditorium heads nodded when he plainly stated that most charity communications are dull -“you lose the will to live reading them”. So,so true. Words are precision instruments and they should be used with care.

Linking with this observation a persuasive case was presented for making “Why” the most important word for fundraisers. “Why” gives people the purpose for supporting a cause. To be an effective champion of your cause – not just a fundraiser – you have to be able to answer: Why do we do what we do? And perhaps more importantly: Why do I do what I do?

Without a strong sense of self and the confidence to reveal your vulnerabilities – both personal and organisational – you cannot speak with authenticity. Spend more time on the Why question and less on the How questions and you’re in with a chance of engaging people.

We Should Change Our Understanding Donor Goals and Motivations
Phil Barden from Decode Marketing spoke about how an understanding of the science behind decision-making could significantly improve an organisation’s ability to address donor goals and motivations.

We like to think that we know when we are being influenced. But the truth is we are unaware of the constant nudging informing our unconscious minds – this is called Priming.

However in order to prime effectively we need to understand a person’s goals. Goals are informed by attitudes, intentions, relationships and choices. Decode Marketing has developed a Goal Model that neatly summarises goals into 6 broad areas:

The Decode Goal Model™
1. Autonomy – a sense of power, achievement, status
2. Discipline – a sense of order, efficiency, logic
3. Security – a sense of belonging, care, trust
4. Enjoyment – a senses of openness, relaxation, carefreeness
5. Excitement – a sense of variety, curiosity, inspiration
6. Adventure – a sense of freedom, discovery, courage

If you’re keen to learn more about the science behind decision making I’d suggest checking out:
The Science Behind Why We Buy – Phil Barden
Pat Dade’s organisation Cutural Dynamics
You Are Not So Smart

We Need to be Aware That The Competition is Changing
Amidst the sea of quotes and bon mots that peppered the day, one particularly stood out:

“Competition has been shown to be useful up to a certain point and no further. But co-operation, which is the thing we must strive for today, begins where cooperation leaves off” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Increasingly, commercial organisations are operating in the space traditionally occupied by charities. For example Unilever’s CEO Paul Polman was recently quoted saying “Business should serve society. We are the world’s biggest NGO.” Also check out Proctor and Gamble and EY (formally Ernst and Young) who have both launched their own charity initiatives.

Only time will tell if these and other initiatives are a positive catalyst for changing the way the Profit With Purpose sector engages with the Commercial sector.

inspire-someone-glass-coat-750417426And on a final note…
During the day the likes of Amanda Seller (UNHCR), Iain MacAndrew (Multiple Sclerosis Society) and Richard Taylor (Cancer Research UK) spoke engagingly about delivering fundraising growth and change. Three common mantras emerged – true, you have probably heard them before but they are worth repeating:

• Be bold and disruptive in all things you do – trying to get a share of voice is increasingly more difficult
• Innovate, think laterally and be imaginative –adopt a You + Me = We mindset and forge partnerships with people you wouldn’t normally engage with
• Persistence, positivity and resilience are core to being a fundraising leader – you’ll get knock backs but you have to keep on keeping on

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Chris Washington-Sare (2 blogs on 101fundraising)

Chris is Founder and Managing Director of Pentatonic Marketing, a fundraising and marketing consultancy for the profit with purpose sector. He has over 20 years experience producing successful strategies and campaigns for not-for-profit and commercial organisations. He has worked in a diverse range of organisations including CAMRADATA Analytical Services, The Management Centre (=mc), Greenpeace Australia Pacific, The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, Plan International, Red Rock Media, Central St Martins College of Art and the Royal Shakespeare Company. His recent clients include World Animal Protection, Transparency International, CBM and 10:10.


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