I get asked – “this new approach to fundraising is all very well Richard but will it scale?” i.e. will it work for larger charities?
(If you are new to my thinking and want to understand more about what I mean by a new approach to fundraising check out my guest blog on the Showcase of Fundraising Innovation and Inspiration last week : A new approach to fundraising )
So lets go back and check the key elements. There are three.
First you need to find your story. That might be in the form of a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) or some other way to focus who you are and why you do what you do. Do stories scale? er … of course! Think of The Bible, StarWars, or the Jungle Book. We love stories, especially ones well told. And of course being a charity chances are your story has all the elements : an obstacle to overcome, the struggle, a hero … What about stories from large organisations? It’s probably easier to get your stories attention the larger you are – think Manchester United, Apple or Tesco. And can large organisations set BHAGs? Well the most famous is land a man on the moon by the end of the decade set by President Kennedy in 1961 – and it doesn’t get much bigger than the United States of America. Ok so large organisations have more variety and will have branched, possibly drifted, into other areas. And it might take time (which is well spent) to nail your core story and get buy in – but there was a reason your cause was created. Find it. Lets face it if you can’t pin down your story then why should people support you? What after all is your purpose? That’s the burning question you need to answer.
The second element is work out who all your supporters are to help spread that story. Large organisations have even more scope from donors, campaigners, staff, volunteers – a rich seam of people involved in the cause. And organisations too – that share your vision and values such as funders, corporate partners, suppliers and so on. If anything, it should be easier compared to small organisations who have a limited supporter base to draw on.
Finally you need to engage those supporters and equip them with your story so they are inspired to engage their networks about you. Again in a large organisation chances are there are plenty of activities that can be used for such a purpose. They just need to be prioritised and used in a way that doesn’t just engage people, or for that matter just aim to extract money out of them, but conveys your story and better still empowers and inspires them to get involved.
So all the key elements (1) A story, (2) supporters to spread your story, (3) engagement activities to equip your supporters with your story, can be scaled – tick x 3.
The hardest aspect for larger charities therefore is the mindset – so you have the willpower to do it. A shift in approach means change – and big organisations don’t like change. So to make it happen you need a change in mindset. Which is why you need to understand why you need to change (see my previous blog).
I’ve been fortunate to work at a fairly adaptable and nimble charity for the last five years. I’ve been able to learn, observe and try a different approach to fundraising that works as well as the traditional response driven fundraising in all its forms. Whilst it’s easier to take that mindset on in a smaller organisation its still hard work with limited resources, budget, and small supporter base to draw on. I’ve also worked in, and with, some very large charities – so I know the resources they can call upon. Not just within but externally too – consultants, agencies, influential supporters. So if anything larger organisations should find it easier IF they have the right mindset.
The wrong mindset by the way is to remain in denial that we have the right to ask, that you need to target as many people as possible, and that you can simply ignore people who have a bad experience of fundraising.
So will it scale? Yes if you believe it will.