Advertise your problems not just your solutions.

If someone stopped you on the street and said “I know the way!”, you would probably think they are a bit weird. If they asked, “Could you tell me the way to the station?”, chances are you would try and help. That’s because we like to help, and we like to solve problems.

Charities and non profits are tackling some of the worlds greatest social problems. Yet the approach that many adopt is that they know all the answers. When we are asked to “Get Involved” (surely there must be an alternative label on a charity website?) it’s about donating, fundraising, perhaps volunteering and campaigning.

Share your problems

I looked around a host of charity websites and I couldn’t find one that had a problem page – i.e. a list of problems they would like help with (apart from give us some money and that’s only asking for something the charity has a solution for). I did find one that wanted feedback on its website (nice touch CRUK). When I did a google search on “charity problems” all I got was problem charities or the usual list of links to donate, fundraise, etc. I’m not surprised either. Often charities don’t like to expose what they don’t know or what they are struggling with – it could associate them with that forbidden word FAILURE. Which is a shame because I think there is an opportunity here – another way to engage people – and that’s by simply sharing your problems. As my introductory example shows problems are very sticky. They really are excellent ways to involve people. My last post was all about enabling supporters to be part of the experience. This is one way to achieve just that.

These problems could be at several levels – they could be major obstacles to helping your organisation achieve its mission. The sort of problems SolarAid recently posed to business students all over the world as part of the incredible Hult Global Case Challenge to help overcome the key challenges to selling solar lights in Africa.

But they be could smaller problems too.

Now it’s all very well to spout these theories in a blog. So I tried it. It was VERY effective.

Brave Mhonie from Malawi – determined to experience the UK

Brave is a star member of SolarAid’s SunnyMoney team in Malawi. Last week he came to the UK. He has never been to the UK so naturally we asked him what would he like to see. Top of his list was to see a Premiership football match. As we were approaching the last few weeks of the season, tickets were impossible to come by. So we started getting in touch with our close contacts. No joy. With 24 hours to spare we secured his visa to come to the UK but we still had no tickets for the elusive football match.

And then I had an idea based on the principle above. Rather than trying to solve it let’s pose the problem and put it out there.

So we did! We put a post on Facebook saying Brave was coming to the UK and would love to see a football match – could anyone help? Within 24 hours we had prime tickets for Chelsea vs Newcastle donated! Brave had a great time and saw two fantastic goals scored by fellow African, Papiss Cissé.

Now what if charities made problems a feature of their website? What sort of problems could people help you solve?  Based on the above examples, they could be small to huge so there is no reason to think they couldn’t be everything in between. I believe the sky is the limit – it only comes down to what problems you are prepared to share.

Does you know of a charity website which poses its problems openly on a regular basis? If so let me know!

6 thoughts on “Advertise your problems not just your solutions.

  1. Hi Richard, what an excellent idea! And thank you so much for sharing your creative ideas and thoughts on your blog.
    The charity I work for currently does not have an interactive website, facebook or twitter account, however, I am sure I can incorporate the idea of communicating our problems through other channels….
    Brilliant blog – thank you!


  2. Reblogged this on Iceberg Ahoy! and commented:
    Brilliant! I am a great believer in sharing skills and that together we can achieve so much more. Every charity will have a wealth of experience, knowledge and connections among their supporters, so why should we even attempt to keep problems secret and not invite the help of others in finding solutions? Yet we don’t do this very much…yet… This blog post might change your mind…. Enjoy!


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