Yep, we’ve already tried that….

If you’ve been on your board for a long time, or had a small team with the same people, then chances are you know and trust each other really well. Which is great. Until someone new comes along. Then chances are you feel like they don’t know as much as you, or they’re going to make changes where they’re not needed and really why try something else, when this already works.

Unwittingly you can send off the vibe of being in a clique.

I don’t mean aka ‘Mean Girls’ or that you don’t listen to anything new said,  but potentially and subtly (or perhaps not so!) you discourage any new ideas or ways to do this. Cue eye roll.

And of course you’ve put in the hard yards. You’ve done all the hard work when there was no money and you had to walk 10 miles in snow to school (no wait that’s another story!), and no one knows better than you what works and what doesn’t.

And then in comes someone new. And they may even want to try new things or heaven forbid, actually question the process or offer suggestions.

Really? Do they not know their place?

I mean we’ve already tried this, and we’ve spent weeks, no months, coming up with this way to do things. Can’t they just do what they are told? Is it not their job to just help us continue to do what we know has already worked?*

Of course we want new people on board. And yes we know we need them.  But can’t they  just slip seamlessly into the way we have set up things. And can they stop asking questions about everything, and just accept that we’ve found the best way to do things.

No they can’t. Because, really deep down, this is why you asked them to join the board, become a volunteer, or work in your team. 

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Yes you want them to just do what they need to do. But you also deep down know that at some stage, you were that new person. You were the one with the enthusiasm and new ideas.

And nothing will sap the life out of a new addition to your team than you constantly shutting down their thoughts, ignoring them or not sharing information. They will feel undervalued and unable to make a difference. They may even feel unliked. And that’s the last thing you intended. You were just super busy and wanting to get the job done.

But, particularly in not for profits where resources are limited, you need to nurture your board, your volunteers and your team. You need to be less possessive and more open to new ideas. Hell, they may even work. Especially if you throw your support behind them.

And no, they’re not all going to work. And some of them won’t work because you haven’t supported them. But what if, just once or twice, you tried the new way….and it was actually better? Or it raised a shit load of money? For the organisation that you LOVE and are passionate about. Who wins then?

We are all guilty of thinking our way is the best way. And often it is. But, yes sad but true, we don’t know everything and the wisest and most successful of us realise that and EMBRACE it.

So go with it. And pick them up when it fails and support them. No eye rolling. No, I knew this would be the case. Why? Because don’t you wish someone had done that for you?

And the more people with ideas that join your ‘island’, the more development and growth you can make for the cause. But you are the foundations, the backbone, and your knowledge and your guidance is key to success.

With a little help from your friends, both old and new.

*Einstein’s definition of insanity. Doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.

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A Culture of Giving

I’ve been guilty of ignoring my blog and I’m sure this is something that many bloggers fall victim to. I can give you all the excuses of how busy I’ve been but that’s all they are….excuses.

Which brings me to the point of this blog. Why, as charitable organisations, do we make excuses when we have a low level of engagement from our prospective donors or sponsors? Is there an issue with the culture of giving? Are people becoming less inclined to give?

I’m sure many could find statistics to prove this is the case but I’m going to go with a gut feeling and here it is. People want to give but you have to ask them. Simple isn’t it? Well not really – because many worthwhile organisations are asking them. In today’s world, with the data we have access to, we need to ensure we are asking the right people in the right way.

So to me, creating a culture of giving starts with the charitable organisations themselves. We need to step up and follow trends, ensure we have a presence in the areas that our potential donors are spending their time, stop pussyfooting around and just ask them for their support!

Now I’m not suggesting pleading poverty and the like, but telling your stories and showing people how their input can make things happen. Putting them at the centre of your story and not feeling ashamed to continue to promote what is possible….with their help.

I’m going to frame this in an arts landscape purely because that’s where I’ve been spending much of my time in the past few months (and they’ve got this pretty much down pat….massive thumbs up!). But essentially this philosophy is true of any not for profit organisation in any sector.

So when I talk about a culture of giving from an organisational viewpoint I mean allocating resources in the area of developing long term relationships with audiences with a view to educating them around supporting the organisation. That doesn’t mean just buying tickets or merchandise but giving regular donations to support companies in achieving their goals. This could just as easily be translated to those people who only buy merchandise or attend events for charities. To my mind these are the potential donors we should be nurturing and learning about – they have the potential to be strong regular donors with just a little bit of education.

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Tax incentives can assist with motivating people to give, but that is only one reason. Donors need to feel a connection with what they support, and the arts are well positioned to enable this. However many arts organisations let themselves down by concentrating on a small group of known philanthropists or companies that support them, rather than allocating time and expertise in educating a broader market on the culture of giving.

This starts with everyone in the company (including the board) understanding exactly what a culture of giving entails and having involvement with potential and existing supporters. Performers and administration staff should be excited about new sponsors coming on board, and welcome the opportunity to bring new ‘family’ members into the fold, keeping them involved in future plans. There shouldn’t be a fear that these new supporters will try to influence the company’s direction, rather they can be utilised as test audiences for new projects and surveyed on their opinion. All of which acts as an opportunity to further increase their experiential engagement with the organisation and secure their long term support.

But this takes time and it takes patience. And it takes strong leadership from the top and unwavering commitment to the purpose of installing a culture of giving. Your staff will feed off your enthusiasm (or lack thereof) and unless this plan remains constantly on the agenda, you won’t see sustainable results. You’ll have times when you doubt your plan and times when you feel no one is keen to support your endeavours. Many will give up at this time, but those that steadfastly continue with their plan – regularly engaging, educating and involving their potential supporters will reap the rewards through their perseverance as your audience begins to see the long term benefits of becoming involved on a deeper level financially.

It is arguably one of the toughest jobs around, trying to build a support base through donors, sponsors and partners, and you need to be able to handle rejection regularly – BUT if you keep going I promise the rewards will be magnificent.

And remember nothing worthwhile and longstanding is ever easy because if it were easy, then everyone would be doing it

Until next time,

Kathie

Fundraising – are you in, or just dipping your toes?

I’m sure it’s a familiar scene to many. The board or the boss decides you need to ramp up sponsorship, corporate partners, donations, bequests, etc etc (insert magic pocket of money here). They set a timeline, generally a few months because how hard can it be – don’t you just get on the phone or send out a letter and everyone puts their hands up to support you, and then they either do one of two things.

1. They completely forget about it until the deadline comes around and then express disappointment in you, your team, the economy, your supporters and the world in general or

2. They can’t keep out of it and want to sign off every communication, change things and tell you it won’t work that way because that’s not the message of the organisation, that people won’t respond to your approach because it’s been done before and essentially they just want a reprise of what’s been done before because we don’t want to upset (insert one or two donors or friends of the organisation who have barely given but know everything).

The Board of Directors were unsure about Marvin. Somehow, they knew he was the sort of employee who would want to do things differently.

Clearly I exaggerate (well hopefully I do, otherwise I feel sorry for you and your teams!) but often we are faced with as many challenges internally, if not more, than we are externally in the market. And it’s hard because often these challenges come from senior executives who are used to being right and subtly can change things that will have a damaging flow on effect in your ability to raise money and support.

So how do you overcome this?

You need to allocate as much time and effort into your campaign for your internal buy in as you do in researching and tailoring your message for your prospective sponsors and donors. If your board is not on board, then you’re already five steps behind.  Give them all the facts, send them examples of similar campaigns, build up a file of articles that you can pull out when needed to reassure them that you’re not going off on some random tangent.

Identify key people in your organisation and get them excited about your campaign, get them talking about what you’re trying to achieve, make sure they understand the science of what you’re doing. Take all that wonderful networking you do on the outside and replicate that with the people who work at the service end of your charity or not-for-profit and they will advocate upwards and outwards. As this momentum builds, so will the swell of support and confidence.

Good Luck!

Kathie

It’s hip to be square

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Hi my name is Kathie and I’m a newbie. Go easy on me and I promise I’ll get far more interesting.

I set up Square Pegs a couple of years ago after circumstances required a change of lifestyle for me. I’d worked for many years with chronic back pain but to be honest working 9 to 5 full-time was meaning a weekend of recovery. I’m sure others can relate. That was fine but then when my mum got sick due to bowel cancer I knew something had to give. So out of necessity to care for mum (and myself), Square Pegs was born.

The first year was pretty all over the place. Not a lot of direction and a lot of me doing whatever work came along, whilst sitting by hospital beds or taking mum to chemo. Devastatingly mum passed away at the end of that first year and, even though it was kinda expected, I was pretty shaken. I took a few months to sort out those things you have to sort out when you lose someone and then I was left wondering what was next. So back to full-time work I went. However my body had got used to not having to sit in an office chair for fifty hours a week and consequently threw a tantrum. The chronic back pain had not only returned it was literally taking over my life.

So a new plan was needed. Square Pegs was dusted off and this time a definite direction was decided and embarked upon. Over the last few months I have been steadily building relationships with a variety of clients and loving the opportunity to help both charities and not-for-profit organisations develop new opportunities with funders, corporate partners and sponsors. I’ve made mistakes, have freaked out that no one would use me, have fist pumped and literally leapt for joy. Yes it’s been a roller coaster ride as the cliché goes and I’m so lucky to have the fantastic support of my hubby who has not only supported me financially and emotionally but also actually believes that I’m pretty good at this stuff!

So the next step of the plan is to start this blog with the hope that some of my random thoughts may actually be useful to other people – especially if you have an interest in charities, not-for-profits, arts or community organisations and how we can assist them to develop sustainable income streams. If that’s what spins your wheels then watch this space.

But this blog does come with a warning. I’m pretty passionate about what I do and I’m also pretty straight up about what I say (as I’m sure my friends will agree!) – but my observations are just that. My observations. Sometimes you’ll agree with me, sometimes you won’t. But hopefully you’ll think.

Kathie