A New Quest

Six years ago I woke up and realised I no longer enjoyed my job. I was Director of Fundraising at a large charity where I had been for over 4 years. I knew even back then something wasn’t right. Costs of fundraising were rising, response rates were falling. And the pressure was on to deliver results. So that very same day I did what you are not meant to do – handed in my notice and went on a quest to search for a place I could restore my love for fundraising.

And so, several months later, when I started at SolarAid in June 2011 an experiment began. It was the reason I started this blog – to share my learning as a I went. Right from my first post Its not about asking for money I set out to approach fundraising in a different way.

Experimentation requires failure

My time at SolarAid turnlaboratory1ed out to be a five year experiment. Whilst I am delighted to have been part of achieving something extraordinary during my time there (reaching over 10 million people in Africa with solar lights) – I know it could have been even better knowing what I know now. But that’s OK too because “Experimentation requires failure“, as TED speaker and thought leader, Simon Sinek, said recently in an interview. Yet it’s from that freedom to experiment that I have learnt so much and had some breakthroughs along the way. I was fortunate enough to work in an organisation that embraced failure and allowed me to approach fundraising in the way we did (checkout this guest blog I did for the Fundraiser last week on the failure culture within SolarAid). And perhaps most important of all my love for fundraising is restored.

Now five years on and we seem to be in a different fundraising context here in the UK. One where there is an increasing recognition that mainstream fundraising can’t continue as it has done in the past. I suspect there are many fundraisers waking up, as I did six years ago, enjoying fundraising a little less than they used to. So perhaps my five years practical experiment at SolarAid approaching fundraising in a different way can be of help. I believe all the principles I have learnt can apply to any organisation on a mission – and I’m about to put that to the test as I work with clients to help them approach fundraising in a different way.

Unpacking a 5 year quest – there and back again

So this year I’m going to look back at the route I took over that five years and unpack what worked and why, what could have worked better and why, and what didn’t work and why.  As I start work with clients as a fundraising practitioner to apply this thinking to other charities, I’ll share (if they will let me) their journey too. And the team at SolarAid have promised to keep me up to date so I will carry on preaching the SolarAid story – which continues to evolve. Of course I’ll also share my thoughts, observations and insights as I continue to learn. So join me in 2017 as I unpack my experiment and help you with your quest.

2 thoughts on “A New Quest

  1. Thanks Richard, I look forward to reading about your journey this year!

    You may have seen I write a blog featuring interviews with leading fundraising experts. It would be great to interview you at a convenient time for this series if you’re amenable?

    All the best Ben


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