Rants and buzzwords

Third Sector Buzzwords

I spent most of last week at the Institute of Fundraising Convention. It is the annual event in London for fundraisers in the UK to learn, network and get inspired. (and there is usually some wine and fancy dress thrown in too)

Every year themes and buzzwords emerge. This year it was innovation, multi-channel and failure. A small rant follows.

Innovation – now whilst I’m all over innovation – after all it is what I help people do – I rather dislike the word. It gets inserted into job descriptions, session descriptions, people descriptions, project descriptions, award descriptions and any other description you care to think of. And it becomes meaningless. Lets be clear innovation is a strategy that helps organisations drive ideas forward  in  order  to  achieve  their  business  objectives. It is an essential, not a buzzword. Can we please stop just shoving the word everywhere and get on with some.

Failure – I heard a lot of people talking about how important it is to learn from failure. I totally agree. However the real challenge is how to make it OK to fail personally, in our teams and our organisations. We must stop talking about how important it is and actually create a culture where people are able to safely admit they messed up and then improve. So what interests me is how we create a place where it is safe to fail, and actually do it. We are all in agreement about how important it is.

Multi channel – yes we are all multi channel. Always have been. Yet the majority of charities create teams that forget about how our supporters interact with each other and the world around them and build their work around separate channels or ‘types’ of fundraising. No wonder communication gets difficult and results in internal wrangles about which message or channel takes priority. It’s about the supporter. Of course we are multi channel. Once more, lets stop talking about it and just do it.

Small rant over.  Although there were some great rants from Mark Astarita who is sick of charity ‘cowards’ leaving fundraisers in the firing line and Alan Clayton on how we cannot fundraise alone and as individuals and a sector we must be proud of what we do.

My top three sessions of the Convention were;

1. The excellent and energetic opening plenary highlighting the changes in fundraising over the last 30 years from Tony Elischer. He took some risks. He even made a delegate say penis. The audience were in shock and every single one of us was relieved he didn’t pick on us. We are so British.

2. The perfect pitch was a mash up of corporate teams pitching to Poundland. I was inspired by beautiful storytelling and smart business strategy from the winning team of @beth_upton and @JaneBardsley from Battersea Dogs and Cats Home pitching on behalf of Alzheimer’s Society. Not a dry eye in the house. And we all know that to inspire action you have to get people to feel something. An awesome pitch.

3. The entertaining double act of Professor Adrian Sargeant and Alan Clayton highlighted the key findings of The Great Fundraising report.  They shared the academic evidence for culture being key to great fundraising as well as what that culture looks like for us in our day-to-day jobs. You can download the free report here.

What did you learn and take away from Convention?

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