Please don’t cut and paste this

Published by Derek Humphries on

cut-and-paste1Don’t read this blog. There’s a much better one over on Rogare by Joe Jenkins. Joe got me thinking about copying and originality. Here are 6 thoughts he triggered.

1. The changing nature of how we ‘learn to fundraise’: as a volunteer I help organise the International Fundraising Congress. It’s the place where I first felt part of a global fellowship of folk trying to do good. The event is changing. Years ago it was about going to learn at the feet of successful people. Often that meant people from more developed markets such as the UK. Today it is much more about an exchange of views, shoulder-to-shoulder, learning ‘with’ people not just ‘from’ them. And that means a massively more diverse group of speakers. Phew.

2. Cultural diversity: 12 or so years ago I did a session there on innovation and failure. Packed room. Massive interest. One of those times where you know you have nailed it. Except, right at the very end, someone from Japan asked a question: ‘You have talked about the importance of admitting and learning from failure, but in my country and culture people will not do this, so how do I approach learning from failures?’ Right there, the biggest learning moment I’ve ever had at any conference in more than 25 years. Fundraising imperialism must die. No harm in sharing best practice and theories, of course not. But fundraisers must do more to understand and embrace cultural diversity in everything from strategic planning processes to the sensitivities of running a successful meeting with people from diverse cultures.

3. Too many awards: ok, head above parapet. There is such a proliferation of awards in the sector that we end up celebrating mediocrity. Moreover, it’s a mediocrity often judged on thin criteria and heavily spun entry forms. And then, this celebrated mediocrity gets copied mercilessly. So just stop entering awards. Please do celebrate your team’s success. But stop entering awards. (Just for the record, I stopped entering more than 10 years ago. Perhaps just as well, as my chances of ever winning another just rapidly declined…)

4. The double-edge of social media: it’s very common now for younger fundraisers to ask for something they can copy. I see it all the time in Facebook groups. It seems natural for people who have grown up in a cut-and-paste culture. ‘I’m writing a donor engagement plan. Does anyone have one I can have a look at?’ That sort of thing. Now, I am absolutely not knocking young people. And I love the sharing of expertise we do in our sector. I love sharing views with younger fundraisers (where I learn as much as I teach). Social media is great for that, but it also makes the replicability of strategies, plans, and creative ideas very, very easy (whether they are good or not). New fundraisers don’t necessarily copy more, but new media makes all copying of shiny new things far too easy. I suspect we’ll soon see a massive tightening of contracts of employment to specifically inhibit sharing.

5. Look somewhere else: there’s a big world out there. Fantastically innovative social change and fundraising is happening in places such as India and Pakistan. The most exciting stuff I’ve played a small role in lately has been in Latin America, the Gulf States, and among small groups of very wealthy entrepreneurs in the UK. To learn where great stuff is going on, don’t look in the usual places.

6. Evidence-based passion? Passion-based evidence? I’ve loved getting involved with Ian MacQuillin’s team at Rogare, which is all about evidence-based fundraising. But I confess I feel a bit of a fraud. Because for me, evidence has often come second. I follow my intuition, and evidence follows. Luckily, it’s often worked, but it’s not always good enough. I hope I never stop wearing my heart on my sleeve, but moving forward I’m studying the meteorological data to assess what sort of sleeve is appropriate for the prevailing climate.

Six thoughts. Please take them and make them much better. But cut and paste at your peril.

Derek Humphries

@derekhumphries is a Creative Director at DTV Group working on worldwide DRTV campaigns and films, and a consultant Creative Strategist working with the Resource Alliance.


Simone Joyaux · May 31, 2016 at 16:36

Great blog, Derek. What did I like the best…Hmmm…. #2 really resonated with me. I live in a country where someone like Donald Trump (total disrespect for any kind of cultural diversity) can get as far as he has. And the mediocrity thing. So much of that. And that whole social media thing, as if that’s all that matters.

Anyway. Thanks!

    Derek Humphries · May 31, 2016 at 16:44

    Thanks Simone, glad it resonated. I suspect Trump would also sit under ‘celebrating mediocrity’, or worse.
    Best wishes

Chris D · May 31, 2016 at 16:38

Excellent and many thanks! One of my favourite posts so far and couldn’t agree more on all points.

    Derek Humphries · May 31, 2016 at 16:46

    Why thank you, Chris with the very short surname.

Ian MacQuillin · June 1, 2016 at 11:04

Some excellent points Derek, and thanks for yours and DTV’s support of Rogare.

On your point 5 about looking elsewhere; this isn’t confined to geography. There are plenty of other professions and academic disciplines where fundraisers can look for – and find – novel solutions to the issues they face. This is what Rogare has been established to do – and what we did with our recent review of relationship fundraising, which mined social psychology for the latest theories on relationship building and maintenance.

What I really want to comment on though is your point about ‘fundraising imperialism’, which is an important consideration in how the profession develops its codes of conduct and ethics.

These codes are most advanced in developed countries, and often those that have English as a first language. So fundraising’s global ethics – as through the AFP-led International Statement on Ethical Principles – is being formed in the image of Western/global Northern ethical principles.

For example, all codes of practice carry a prohibition on commission-based remuneration of fundraisers. But there may be cultures where this might be considered perfectly acceptable (I don’t know there are – haven’t researched it – just saying there might be). If so, we need to be very careful about imposing our fundraising ethics (such as they are at the moment) on other fundraising cultures. In fact, there might be a lot we can learn from alternative fundraising ethics.

And again, ‘fundraising imperialism’ isn’t just a matter of geography or culture. It’s not just that one fundraising culture can dominate and impose its values on another. It can also happen when a dominant idea or ‘ideology’ takes centre stage and imposes its fundraising weltanschauung.

The key to doing all this better is, as you say in point 6, more evidence, theory and knowledge. As Joe Jenkins says in the Critical Fundraising blog you cite in your opening paragraph: “Challenge the status quo; don’t be indoctrinated by it.”

Finally, as an aficionado of the extended metaphor, I love the concluding sentence of point 6.

    Derek Humphries · June 2, 2016 at 09:38

    Thanks Ian. In my head I did mean more than geography, but you have expanded perfectly on the point I didn’t make!
    I love an extended metaphor! In fact, I have a couple of creative seminars that are 30-60-minute extended metaphors. One about my previous life as an artist (long ago and far away). And one about working as volunteer project manager at an orangutan sanctuary. Each an extended metaphor for creative fundraising. Obviously. Guaranteed to inspire half the audience, and baffle the other half!
    Best wishes

Daryl Upsall · June 2, 2016 at 00:19

great ideas….I must remember to to copy them in my next presentation…whoops!

In all seriousness (took 3 attempts to spell correctly whilst writing on an ipad sitting on the crapper here in Madrid) copycat fundraising makes me want to cry. Please fundraisers innovate even accepting the failures and mistakes along the way until it works.

PS I still have a framed award in my office with both our names on. “You can’t sink a rainbow” ….viva Greenpeace viva the Rainbow Warrior

    Derek Humphries · June 2, 2016 at 09:43

    Thanks Daryl.
    So, you’re a bog blog reader? What a picture! And here I am fresh out of mind bleach…
    Ah, Greenpeace, awards, those skill shares, happy daze…
    I very much look forward to hearing my views next time you speak!
    All the best

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[…] In a recent article on the 101 Fundraising Blog, also inspired by the Joe Jenkins opinion piece, Derek Humphries made […]

Innovation in Fundraising: Why, How, What, When? (Part 2) - NonProfit PRO · June 15, 2016 at 15:01

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