From Ken Burnett
recently retired writer, publisher, motivational speaker and occasional fundraising consultant.
Blog 9 March 2021
Britain’s political élite has of course strenuously resisted the temptation to learn from the far orient, or to adopt the quick and easy wins demonstrated by minor, far-off previous dependencies. Perish the thought...
Honestly, that can’t be true, can it? I mean, fake news it must be, surely?
Ultimately, one simple truth prevails. There’s a right way to do this job. And there are many wrong ways. Your task is to find and follow the right way...
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These are tough and testing times. During the Covid-19 pandemic much has been made of the mental health impacts of repeated lockdowns upon all of us, not to mention the more obvious physical health risks that dominate this strange, disorienting phase in all our lives.
Our scientists and health workers around the world have been magnificent, of course, though less so, or at least less consistently, our politicians. Throughout these dark days political leaders from various lands have inspired or depressed us in differing degrees. As a Brit not wishing to be disloyal, I have to resort to irony and blind optimism, to seek solace in the fact that despite getting everything else wrong while claiming otherwise, we have at least ordered large quantities of vaccine.
Britain’s political élite has of course strenuously resisted the temptation to learn from the far orient, or to adopt the quick and easy wins demonstrated by minor, far-off previous dependencies. Perish the thought that our former satellites might teach us anything. As the UK’s Covid death toll looms close to the worst in the world, still, our politicians claim, Britain’s success is a beacon to the world.
Could there possibly be lessons in this, for those of us still locked down? Have a look at how this is being portrayed by the siren voices of the Looney Left:
Honestly, that can’t be true, can it? I mean, fake news it must be, surely? Well, if we can’t trust our leaders, who can we trust? It’s a good and timely question. Maybe more than ever we now need to fall back on our own resources, perhaps even to craft a new philosophy fit for radically changed times.
I’m being ironic here, you’ll realise, but I don’t mean to be flippant. Because so many politicians have got away with so much distortion and disinformation for so long, and are getting away with regular porkies still, there’s an all-too-real danger that our charity sector leaders will ape the casual disregard for truth that’s so infected so many of today’s political élite, simply because they’ve seen they can get away with it. If the public will tolerate it from their politicians, surely they’ll also make allowances for their favourite causes, so we too can perpetrate similar distortions with equal impunity? That thinking, seen all too recently in the UK at the time of the Olive Cooke fiasco, would be simply catastrophic for our fragile, though indispensable, for-change sector. Continued willing giving by donors is founded on and depends upon trust, confidence, principles and a good supporter experience. So for campaigning fundraisers, one path to happiness would be to make sure nothing can ever get in the way of that.
Yet in these confusing times it’s so easy to be down and dispirited. To combat the looming gloom and turmoil, how can fundraisers cope? How can we become invulnerable to the slings and arrows that assail our daily lives in lockdown, as we brace ourselves for the new normal? Here I offer seven sure-fire routes to well-being that no amount of political double-talk can undermine.
Continued top of column 2, above.
The seven rules, continued from the foot of column 1:
• Tell the truth and tell it well, fearlessly and with integrity. Welcome, reliable communication is the core of responsible, effective fundraising. Trust and confidence are essential to underpin voluntary giving. If that gets undermined, fundraisers have nothing and will amount to nothing. Yet we fundraisers have the best stories in the world to tell and the best of reasons for telling them well, with power and passion that will move people to action. So, practice and perfect ‘the five Fs’, so your charity can become famous for frequent, fast, fabulous feedback.
• Cultivate your passion. Wear it proudly and shout out about it, loudly. Learn all you can about your business so your passion for campaigning fundraising becomes ever more contagious. Fundraising is like opera: it’s about life, death, love, hate, loss, fear, failure, sacrifice, passion, drama, desire, success, high ideals, achievement… This is the clay with which you work. What could be more inspirational?
• Don’t resist change. People who are fearful of change are rarely happy. Change can keep your life stimulated. So stop prevaricating. Don’t postpone what you really want to do, or what you think is worthwhile. Spend time working out what makes you happy and do more of it, each day.
• Get involved, go deep. Campaign for the change you want to see. Support your fellow fundraisers who are agitating for the new era of responsible fundraising. Make it happen with your colleagues, in your organisation, in your community, in your country. Then tell the world, so you and your charity can be an example that sets the standard and the pace for even more positive change.
• Don’t glorify your achievements, glorify your donors’. Rather than praising your organisation and all that it does, focus instead on the great things that your supporters do. Don’t say, ‘this is what we do’, say ‘this is what you make possible’.
• Regularly audit your happiness. How much of each day are you spending doing something that doesn’t make you happy? Is this something you can change? Change it, then share what you’ve done with the people around you.
• Wear your happiness proudly. Tell yourself regularly, ‘if it is to be, it is up to me’. These ten words, each of just two letters, will keep you on your toes and guard against dependency on anyone other than yourself. Tell others too and smile while you’re at it. You can also say with pride, ‘I am the future of fundraising’. That will certainly be true, if you decide to make it so.
That’s probably enough to be going on with, for now. Ultimately, one simple truth prevails. There’s a right way to do this job. And there are many wrong ways. Your task is to find and follow the right way.
Unsurprisingly, the full secrets of happiness and achievement for campaigning fundraisers are more complex and detailed than can be usefully contained in any short list of seven. So, I’m poised to bring out a new book about fundraising (my last – honestly!). It’s called The Essence of Campaigning Fundraising in 52 Exhibits and 199 Weblinks. It’ll be shortened to Campaigning Fundraising, of course. It’s all about what’s worthwhile in our unique field of business: happiness, fulfilment, purpose, meaning and the joys of working in one of this world’s most rewarding and useful jobs. It’ll be published in June 2021, available from www.whitelionpress.com (email firstname.lastname@example.org )
Meanwhile, be happy. It’s part of being a good fundraiser.
© Ken Burnett 2021
With thanks to Dr Anthony Clare and his Seven Rules for Happiness. Dr Clare was a prominent BBC radio presenter in the 1970s and 80s, with his programme ‘In the Psychiatrist’s Chair’. He died in 2007.
This article originally appeared in the Fundraising Institute of New Zealand’s magazine.
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If you’re committed to delivering the best possible donor experience check out SOFII’s special section on the subject, here. Plus, SOFII’s letter to the future and 32 lightbulb moments, here.
For more on fundraising during the coronavirus pandemic, see here and here.