The sport aside, there's an aspect of the Olympics that I've found very interesting.
It's the incredible transformation of this symbol that has caught my fundraiser's eye:
If you're not from GB and NI (or find these initials slightly baffling), you might be surprised to learn that comparatively few people these days describe themselves as British. For some people, it's simple - they are English, Scottish, Welsh, from Northern Ireland, Cornwall or Yorkshire etc. For others of us, it's a bit more complicated. We're a whole mixed bag of things and we can choose what to call ourselves.
And there's another dimension.
For a long as I can remember, the Union Flag has had associations with nationalism and the far right – reason enough to not wear one, own one or ever have one on your house.
But all of a sudden that seems to have changed.
In the last couple of days, I've seen people happily wearing Union Flag raincoats, t-shirts, leggings, hats and badges. I've seen them carrying flags, sequined Union Flag bags and umbrellas. Not to mention the temporay tatoos and face paints.
So what's changed? Have all those obstacles to being British gone away? Of course not. And that's where to me at least it gets interesting.
At Bluefrog, our fundraising is based around the concept of 'donor needs'. One of these is 'growth'. This can be slightly difficult to explain, but it points us in the direction of how people define themselves and how we can enhance this.
In the context of the Olympics, flying the Union Flag meets a 'need'. Wearing it now means:
- You're part of a bigger team (Team GB)
- You share its newfound positive associations (the success, dedication and skill of GB sportsmen and women)
- You're contributing to a very special series of events (the Olympics)
And importantly, wearing a Union Flag allows you to show other people that you're a part of all this.
I'm sure you'll see where I'm going with this. Charities can meet a similar need by giving supporters the chance to:
- Be a part of a like-minded community or movement with shared aims and beliefs
- Share in positive associations that come with that particular cause
- Be part of a special event or series of events
Some charities have successfully used the power of a symbol to bind together their supporters and build a tribe. Here are a few examples that underpin fundraising success:
Marie Curie Cancer Care's daffodil - click here to see all the ways you can wear a daffodil with
The Royal British Legion's poppy – click here to visit the online poppy shop.
Comic Relief's Red Nose.
So here's a question or two. Do you have a symbol that people want to wear? Do you give your supporters the means to show others that your cause matters to them?
If you haven't, you might be thinking about acquiring one. In which case, you might be interested in these:
Can you guess what these flags are? They date back to 1603 and are the first attempt to come up with a design to represent the new union of Great Britain, then England and Scotland. These drawings give some sense of what a difficult brief this was - in theory, neither country could be favoured, but it was impossible to unite their existing flags without putting one in the forefront.
In the end, the task of pleasing everyone turned out to be impossible (and there's a lesson to be learnt from that). None of these flags was adopted.
The current Union Flag has been a fixture since 1801 and, if you look at it closely, you realise what an intensely difficult political juggling act it is attempting to pull off. If you don't want to look at it closely, then all I can say is good luck. For a few days longer, it's still going to be everywhere.