I’m indebted to Twitter, the wider Internet and e-mail for this post in more ways than one.
As I’m sure other blog writers will confess, having time to write a blog and having something worthwhile to say don’t always coincide as blissfully as might be hoped. This week, however, help came from Jonathan Grapsas and the Agitator.
First, as you may have already seen, Jonathan Grapsas wrote about things he wished he’d known earlier in his career (Click here to if you want to catch up). Then hot-on-his-heels came the Agitator’s e-update (which you can read here) sharing Chris ‘The Long Tail’ Anderson’s new theory.
Anderson has identified a new trend, which he calls ‘crowd accelerated innovation’. Behind it is online video.
In areas as diverse as break-dancing, photography and medical research, rates of improvement are speeding up because enthusiasts are able to share techniques via online video. And Anderson uses online video – what else? – to share his findings (Click here to watch).
Great! Surely that’s what instant global communication should achieve – for fundraising too.
But on a personal note, I have to admit to the failing of impatience, which makes many online videos unattractive. I mean, Chris Anderson’s presentation is excellent but I’m still writing this post, while listening to it, rather than giving it my full attention. As he points out himself, watching is slower than reading. I prefer things I can read through at my own pace, rather than twiddling my thumbs in front of someone’s presentation. Still the basic premise is the same – whether it’s via online video or text-based posts – we have an incredible opportunity to improve our fundraising by sharing experiences.
I’ve found many people similarly generous when sharing where they’ve been successful. But, I wonder, how many of us are so open with things that haven’t worked – learning by mistakes being just as, if not more, useful?
I guess that’s why I liked Jonathan’s post so much. Because by sharing what he wished he knew earlier, he helps others to accelerate their own learning, avoiding the same pitfalls. That’s if they’re sensible enough to listen to him of course.
So in the same spirit, here’s a contribution of my own.
I wish I'd know earlier that big statistics aren't always 'useful facts'. Instead they can make a donor feel overwhelmed, like their gift won't make much of a difference because the problem is insurmountable.
I wish I'd been a bit braver about challenging conventional 'wisdom' on brand earlier. Because so much of the baggage that comes with many charity brands actually inhibits good fundraising.
I wish I'd been a bit more proactive about asking people with more experience than me, 'Did you have this problem? How did you solve it?' I guess I've never been a great networker which is why Twitter etc is so fantastic.
I wish I had learned to pay more attention to research earlier – thankfully, I work with someone who just can’t get enough research. Mark Phillips is a great finder of information as well as sharer. I have to admit to being a little slower to value it. Often, once he’s imparted a pearl of knowledge, I’ll think to myself, well I knew that anyway. Well, great if I did. But was I really going to use that information? Even if it confirms the route that you’re taking, research is very valuable.
I wish I had banned the words ‘I don’t like’ – whether it’s a fellow creative or a client telling me their opinion, I’d be delighted never to hear the words ‘I don’t like’ when discussing fundraising creative or activity more generally. What I really want to hear is ‘Donors like/don’t like’ or ‘Tests/research have shown us that…’ Let’s change the language.
I wish I had thought before about giving innovation its own place – In a way this is almost the reverse of Jonathan’s last point. There are so many things we know ‘work’ in fundraising, but creative minds being what they are need to seek change. Rather than frustrate this urge – far better channel it into areas where innovation is possible and needed.
The Agitator points us in the direction of SOFII – that fabulous forum for the exchanging fundraising experience. So it only seems fitting to end by highlighting a great SOFII article, which shows you want to do with the information you gain from others – 1. Revise 2. Adapt 3. Test. And I hope I've managed to follow that 1, 2, 3 today.
PS If anyone wants to share any of their own mistakes/discoveries with aim of accelerating other people’s learning, feel free to use the comments section.