This is about big ideas.

Published by Alan Clayton on

There are many little details that drive great fundraising, but they count for nothing if the big idea is not right. This is evidenced.

StC UKThe ‘big idea’ is one of the trinity of big chunks that organisations must get right if they are to create massive growth in their fundraising programme. Our research and case studies show conclusively that the trinity must be in place before a great surge in fundraising growth can happen.

The trinity for fundraising growth

1. Culture. The whole organisation, from board down, understands and believes in fundraising and is enthusiastic to help.
2. Investment. The organisation either invests from reserves or allows fundraising to reinvest all its income for an extended period to drive growth.
3. The big idea. A unifying, organisation wide proposition that unites and inspires internally and externally and towards which all growth efforts are focussed.

This is about number three: the big idea

It is very clear and again conclusive from our research that not any old idea will work. Get the right idea and you will flourish, get the wrong one and you will waste your investment.

A good, big idea is based on a new ambition for your organisation. It is not a brand palette, a description of you, declarations about the quality of your work. It is a statement of what you are trying to achieve.

This is a bad idea:
We invest in long term sustainable development, building capacity with local partners.

This is a good idea:
No child born to die.   (Save the Children UK)

This is a bad idea:
We empower people with mental illness and fight stigma.

This is a good idea:
Nobody should feel so bad that death is the only way out. (Mental Helse Ungdom, Norge.)

 What makes a good idea?

  • It is ambitious.
  • It states the problem and the solution.
  • It is a proposition to your donor as to why the world will be better after they have given.
  • It is fast to understand.
  • It is simple.
  • It is active.
  • It is inspiring.
  • It is emotional.
  • It has fundraising right at its very core.

What makes bad ideas?
It’s not a ‘What?’ it’s a ‘Who?’ People make bad ideas. People who are obsessed with their image, their intellect, their crMHU Norgeedibility, who look inwards and who do not think of donors at all. People who find emotion distasteful, who prefer to play safe rather than be ambitious and, worst of all, people who are jealous of fundraising’s big idea and kill it to satisfy their own petty power needs.

How do you go about having the best idea, and making it happen?
First, you need to be expert at having the idea. There is only one successful way – groups of inspired, enthusiastic and emotional people talking to each other, telling stories and really getting fired up. That’s the only way. The most essential person is the leader of the groups who pushes, prods and excites people into the right state. That’s you!

Then you decide. Then you focus. Then you do not compromise.

How do you make your great ideas happen?
Here is the crux. Nine out of ten people make the same mistake once they have had their big idea: it’s delegated to fundraising and then one person sits in the corner for months writing a plan. Plans are important, sure, but people come before plans. The person who makes their idea happen, without compromise, works the people relentlessly. They identify the champions in all departments who will back it. They deal with the nay-sayers. They get the organisation back into that powerful, emotional space regularly and consistently. They drink a lot of coffee and buy lunches.

No compromise. That’s what makes big ideas happen.

I sincerely look forward to working with you, without compromise, on your big ideas at IFC 2015.

IFC-2015-logoThis post is part of the 2015 IFC Series. 101fundraising is proud to be the blog partner of the International Fundraising Congress for the 4th year!


See www.revolutionise.com for more case studies.

Alan Clayton

Alan works in the inspiration and creative business, for charities, non-profits and NGOs globally. He is a force for rapid and dramatic change and growth, with people power at the front of his philosophy. After a career in national charities, he spent ten years running a full service agency, then formed Revolutionise in 2008. Alan has worked with over 320 clients around the world. He specialises in pitch-winning creative insight and strategy, donor insight, emotional communication and motivation. Alan is chairman of Alan Clayton Associates, Karat Marketing, the telephone fundraising agency in Dunfermline, Scotland and managing partner of the Inch Hotel and Inspiration Centre, Loch Ness.

1 Comment

Sophia Acher · September 2, 2015 at 04:58

Absolutely right. There are many little details that drive great fundraising, but they count for nothing if the big idea is not right.


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