It’s time for you to become a disruptor
In this blog, rather than ask more questions, I shall attempt to draw themes together and propose possible ways forward.
My late grandfather was a Regimental Sargent Major in WWI. I recall to this day, he always approached life with the view that one can only ever move forward. Backwards was to fail.
Time to stand and be counted.
I’ve commented that leadership, governance, our approach to fundraising and the model of raising more to do more need to change. I’ve questioned whether we are as disruptive as our founders were. I’ve challenged that we need to find better ways to collaborate, innovate and leverage greater impact. I’ve observed that post new fundraising regulation and the fundraising preference service (FPS) we can’t all just go back to ‘business as usual’.
Our business has been disrupted. The conversations we need to have with donors has changed. To believe anything else is simply emu mentality.
We can’t just put the fundraising house in order through regulation and make a commitment to do better by our donors without also changing the conversation between boards of trustees, their executives and their senior management teams.
That conversation needs to be one of partnership which both challenges and supports. There must be clarity and focus on the ‘why?’ of the charity mission. If we can’t get this dialogue and alignment right, the chances of operational teams being aligned and integrated in delivery is seriously undermined.
I believe that as fundraisers we have a window of opportunity right now. With new fundraising regulation comes the obligation to engage and get the wider leadership and governance context for success right. This will ensure that the UK charity sector continues to make a real impact on the lives of the millions of people, both in the UK and across the world that we, thanks to our supporters are able to reach.
So as action-orientated fundraisers, what must we do to make that change in approach happen?
I’ve outlined below what I believe we need to ask of ourselves, our boards of trustees, our CEO’s and our senior management teams:
- Boards of trustees, must critically re-evaluate the ‘why?’ of the mission, insisting on robust monitoring and evaluation systems, rigorously questioning value for money and impact on beneficiaries and setting ‘solving the problem that we exist to solve’ as the driver for the need to raise more.
Your Challenge: Help your boards, CEO’s and senior teams to understand what motivates supporters, the drivers and techniques required to fundraise successfully and the interdependencies essential for that success. Don’t give up no matter how hard it feels.
- Executive teams must create the space that enables the exploration of new routes to mission delivery and its funding.
Your Challenge: Your board and executive teams, shouldn’t expect you to have all the answers. Nor should you expect all the answers of them. Work together. Create constructive dialogue. Take time to horizon scan, leverage networks and build ecosystems of knowledge and partnership. Respond to the potential to change fundraising and business models. Focus on and find the answers to the right questions. Don’t give up. Continually seek ways to show people the benefits of testing a better way.
- Boards of trustees must demonstrate clear leadership in setting vision and purpose, insist on unambiguous business delivery plans and ensure everyone in the organisation understands and can articulate them through an emotive case for support.
Your Challenge: Take those cases-for-support and translate them into narratives to inspire supporters and raise the millions required to deliver the vision of your charities founder(s). You can do it. Getting this right is hard. Stick with it. When going through hell, the only way out is through.
- Boards of trustees must (if you want to grow) invest (over the long-term) in creating a sustainable fundraising model. Make sure your whole organisation understands the critical interdependencies, commits to deliver them and adopts a level of risk, backed up with accountability. Scale up when it’s working, kill it when it’s not.
Your challenge: Hold your nerve, manage expectations, and help people understand that it’s a marathon not a sprint. Test, learn and adapt. Keep the ‘why?’ of your mission centre stage.
My challenge to you: become disruptors.
Lead by example to foster a ‘whole organisation’ culture, one of being a ‘learning organisation’. Share information and learning from success and failure. Seek new opportunities and partnerships. And if that means mergers – then consider it.
Our founders were true innovators, clear on what they wanted to achieve and prepared to find a new way through to deliver that. Some may argue that we are doing ok and there is no need to reinvent the wheel, but if you only ever have one type of wheel, how do you get to your destination faster?
The charity sector now needs different wheels to ensure that we make exponentially greater impact.
Iain McAndrew is an instigator and change catalyst who challenges organizations to think big and strategically to transform their fundraising and the impact they make.