Are You Ok With Ok?

Published by Charlie Hulme on

‘It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it’ – Upton Sinclair

Over half the charities recently surveyed in the USA said they were unable to meet demand last year; even more say they won’t be able to meet demand this year.

Half the medical research charities couldn’t work to find desperately needed cures. Half the hunger charities couldn’t feed starving children. Half the environmental charities couldn’t fight to save the planet.

How’s your organization doing?

What needs to change if we’re going to drive real change? According to a report commissioned by Clayton Burnett on what makes for truly great fundraising it’s us!

Leaders identified in five organizations considered by their peers to have achieved truly outstanding fundraising were interviewed by Jen Shang and Adrian Sargeant, who reported that “None of them, in creating great fundraising, felt that they could create it within the current organizational system.”

Does that sound like your place? dontbeafraidofchange

There are two sides within every organization. In the minority are passionate people like you, eager for change, subscribing to future thinking, fundraiser driven sites like 101fundraising and SOFII, hungry for new ideas. The majority plays it safe. They watch as results steadily decline, content that it can’t be anything they’re doing; they’re just doing what’s always been done.

One group has a burning passion for their mission. The other has a job where they can leave early on Friday.

One group works hard to build relationships with their donors. The other throws good money after bad on increasingly expensive acquisition programs; far too ‘busy’ to say thank you.

One group sees their organization from a donor’s point of view. The other doesn’t see beyond the narrow walls of their silo and brand guidelines.

One group invests time and money in their front line fundraisers; the people who actually do the asking. The other is disengaged and disdainful of them, denying all knowledge and responsibility whenever a complaint is made.

One group constantly searches for ways to put their organization out of business by eradicating the disease/situation/ (insert your cause here…) they exist to fight. The other makes their living while people are dying, and in the ultimate act of denial make themselves the beneficiaries (how many campaigns have you seen with a variation on ‘the recession has hit us hard’ theme?)

Who’s going to change things for your organization?

‘Leader’ isn’t just a job title, it’s an attitude. Have you read the ‘Great Fundraising’ report? Have you got an opinion on what it says? Have you shared it with your colleagues?

Nothing changes if nothing changes. But change inherently demands innovation; not an appealing prospect for someone personally invested in the status quo. Shrugging Businessman

Challenge these people who are ok with ok; the stakes could not be higher. There’s no such thing as an ok performance when countless lives hang in the balance. George Smith wrote that ‘If your client or boss is comfortable with the copy it is probably under achieving.’ Van Morrison sang, ‘…you’ve got to fight everyday to keep mediocrity at bay…’ That’s what we’ve got to do if we ever want to achieve truly great fundraising.

Unless you’re ok with ok?

 ‘…be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ‘em’ – Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night





Charlie Hulme

Charlie Hulme

Charlie is MD of Donor Voice. He helps charities uncover what, of all the things they do, cause relationship strength and what is harmful. Partners see a massive improvement in performance, value and retention. Voted top speaker at the Institute of Fundraising's National Convention in 2013, he writes frequently for SOFII, 101 Fundraising, the Institute of Fundraising and many others.


Bernard Ross · April 25, 2013 at 18:20

Great research work and ‘great’ fundraising is the key goal. Worth acknowledging that Jim Collins has done a lot on this and there is a formal dataset established among charities on the Good to Great journey.


Kirsten Bullock · April 30, 2013 at 15:46

Thanks for your thoughtful post Charlie. I am really excited about the Great Fundraising report as well!

There’s just one issue that you brought up that made me pause – and that was the ‘us’ versus ‘them’ issue. I guess I prefer to think of most nonprofit employees as being passionate about the work of the organization. However they see different ways to best respond to the issues facing our organizations. And I see instigating change being easier if we seek to first identify what we have in common and recognize that there are different valid responses (and I have to admit that I do believe certain approaches – i.e. being donor centered – are much more valid than others :-) ).


Alan Clayton · April 30, 2013 at 18:59

Charlie – this is a brilliant interpretation. Love it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *