What’s your problem?

I recently had a problem to solve.

On Saturday morning the British & Irish Lions had their second rugby game against the New Zealand All Blacks. With a kick off time of 8:35 am in the morning UK time. The BBC weren’t covering it live on radio or on TV. It was on Sky and I don’t have a Sky subscription.

So I did what so many of us now do when we need to solve a problem – I searched on the internet.

This link got my attention :

Lions vs All Blacks LIVE stream – How to watch New Zealand Lions tour second test online

It was link to the Express newspaper website. The article, which begins with a build up to the match, was really out to plug a service by Sky that I wasn’t aware of that gives you a day pass to have access to its channels – including of course the rugby match I wanted to follow live.

Actually watching wasn’t an option for me, as I needed to jump in the car – I was really after radio coverage (but those shrewd SKY sponsors seemed to have ensured no one was even broadcasting live on radio). But the offer is duly noted for the final Lions vs All Blacks show down match in a weeks time.

What’s your story?

Later that morning I was skimming the articles on the Guardian app on my phone.

This story caught my attention : Meet the shoes that made a professional runner. I’ve got into more running recently so I was intrigued.

I could see from the beginning it was a sort of advert  but it really was a great story about how someone got into running for the first time late in life, started a blog about it, and from a zero start has run 16 marathons, two ultra-marthons and two books on running and changed her career (as a trainer and coach).  The article was “Paid for by Ebay” who added a couple of sentences at the end – “Whether you’re on the hunt for a new hobby or already obsessed, Ebay can help you find your passion and connect you with the things you love. If its running your into, you’ll find all kinds of kit – trainers, wearable tech, clothing and more – new on Ebay”.

I also came across the same story ad in the Guardian weekend magazine.


With both of these I have been marketed to – but in a different way to the usual advert.

The first is helping me solve a problem. If Sky pushed buy our product as a classic advert it would feel clunky – in fact it would never have got my attention.

The same applies with ebay.  If they had simply used the space for an advert I wouldn’t of paid attention. However by telling a story on a topic that currently interests me (running not eBay) they have now planted the idea in my head of using ebay for buying new running gear (and at a higher level seeking to connect the use of ebay with whatever passion you want to pursue).

These are both examples of new marketing. How to get my attention first. And not only that I’m not responding immediately – but I’m likely to do so in the future.


Before we were happy to be interrupted (that’s how marketing worked) but no longer – time is precious and we are being bombarded with information because everyone is now a channel. Attention is now scarce when before it was plentiful. So now you have to work much harder to get my attention.

Two questions to ask and one suggestion

So here are two questions you need to ask and one suggestion to start applying this approach for your charity:

What problem are you solving? Is it clearly communicated? Most charities just focus on the solution.That would be like Sky just plugging their product without showing how it solves the problem I am seeking. People are giving to you to solve a problem (and they may even be searching for it). And then why not also see if you can list other problems you could help solve (which don’t have to be related to your mission) from the perspective of a potential donor that they might be searching for.

The second question to ask is – What stories can you provide that may interest people? Put the story first (not you) and find a platform to share it as ebay did by finding a great story and using the Guardian. After all we have the best stories to tell.

And the suggestion is simply look around you and be aware. See how companies like ebay and Sky are starting to adapt their marketing to attract customers. Think how could this apply in our world of fundraising. If marketing is changing then so too should fundraising.

Hear my story and the problem I can help you solve

And now I have your attention, as someone who receives or reads my blog you might find the following of interest to you. I just took part in FRED Talks – an initiative set up by Ravinol Chambers, founder of Be Inspired Films and hosted by the Institute of Fundraising, speaking direct from the IoF Fundraising Convention in London.

To hear my thoughts, and of course a few stories, on why the model of fundraising is no longer working and how to solve it click on the video below (it takes about 10 seconds to kick in and double check the sound is not muted in the bottom right).





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