28th August 2013

The way we think about charity is dead wrong!

This is the title of an inspiring TED Talk by a chap called Dan Palotta, which currently has 2,300,000 views.  Here are the key messages: There are two rule books in this world; one for the Not-for-Profit sector, the other for the rest of the world.   There are five areas of discrimination:   Salaries for staff are low Advertising for charitable giving can be viewed negatively Risk taking is frowned upon (but it’s OK for Disney to lose $200,000,000 on a film flop) There is no time allowed to invest income to build scale (Amazon are allowed 6 years before making a profit) The NFP sector cannot pay profits to attract capital for new ideas so is starved of growth, risk and ideas capital.   Because of the above the number of non-profits growing into significant multi-million pound organisations is tiny (a percentage of 1 percent) compared with for-profit sectors.   Because of the fixation on the percentage of a donation that goes directly to ‘the cause’ vs ‘overheads’ charities  go without what they need to grow because overheads are not seen as a part of the cause.   Isn’t it better to give money to an enterprise that […]
13th August 2013

Working in the charity sector – is it a vocation or a career?

The row about executive compensation has brought to mind an inspiring lunchtime debate hosted by the Atlanta chapter of the now Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), ‘is fundraising a vocation or a career?’. Bearing in mind that this conversation happened nearly 20 years ago, it clearly made an impression.  There were impassioned pleas, well as impassioned as one could be in a vast ballroom with cold chicken, making the case for both sides. On the vocation side, my former boss and dear friend outlined that we’re not in it for the money, we’re in it to change the world.  Similar to the clergy, we have chosen this profession because of a ‘higher calling’ to change the world. Taking a more pragmatic view, his respondent argued that we are professionals and we just happen to be working for the greater good.  We are business developers, salesmen even, who do the best that we can for our product.  We just happen to practice our craft in the not-for-profit sector at this space in time. So is this argument still pertinent today?  Politicians, donors and the wider public are expressing outrage that charities are paying Chief Executives six figures.  Why?  Well run charities […]
31st July 2013

The only male on the Trustee Board

Reading the Civil Society article by Tania Mason published on the 17th July titled ‘Women make up one third of trustees at top 100 charities’ I was surprised by the statistics. It was great to see that the numbers of female trustees on the boards of the top 100 charities has grown by 10 per cent since 2011, so that women now occupy 34 per cent of board positions, but why are we celebrating when it is still only one third of all Trustee roles? Then I read that female representation among chairs of the largest charities is just 14 of 100. And then Tania throws in that just 17.3 per cent of board seats at FTSE 100 companies are held by women and just 1 of the chairs is female. Not good.  Not good news at all! So what is the issue here? In a quick poll of the office a few themes came through that would put our female employees off becoming Trustees.  One is a perception, real or not, of Boards being male dominated.  The women at Peridot Partners would prefer to join charities with the right Board dynamics that support diversity and have a wide range […]
11th July 2013

Staff Acquisition and Retention: If your people are your greatest asset, is it really that different to fundraising?

On Tuesday 2nd July, Julia Roberts and I were invited to speak at the Institute of Fundraising Annual Convention. We have always felt that charities and non-profit organisations should seek to apply a similar approach with current / future employees as they do with donors, and this was a central theme throughout our presentation. There is a lack of candidates for important hires in the sector, and that addressing this needs to be an urgent priority. We also know that there is a distinct lack of understanding from CEOs and Boards around how best to attract and retain talent. The crux of the afternoon’s session was that, in today’s crowded marketplace, non-profits should seek to develop their case for support around retention and acquisition in order to differentiate their role from the competition. What can a charity do to improve retention of staff? Here are some useful ideas: Script the first 90 days for smooth on-boarding Track employee engagement and morale Improve team communication / Offer areas of cross working Invest in professional development Improve access to senior management Promote internally Naturally there will be times when none of the above works and people simply move on. When this happens, […]
4th July 2013

More cuts. How will they impact on local government?

So the latest spending review has given us another glimpse of what public services will look like. Some local authorities will put their hands up in frustration, and some will roll their eyes, but the general feeling will be of “here we go, again”. Local government has been here many times before. Year on year they are given targets to reduce spend. Year on year they streamline services and work smarter. So perhaps the latest spending review doesn’t come as a surprise to many senior management teams in local government. There may still be some fat in the system and some more traditional local authorities (including London Boroughs) still have 7-8 Directors who aren’t even considering merging teams just yet, but it is quite clear that one of the main ways to achieve savings will be to integrate health and social care. The government will subsidise part of this integration by handing local authorities an extra £2bn and feedback from community budget pilots clearly demonstrate that there are massive savings to be made. Once again, integration is a buzzword that has been used for a while now. Some cynics may feel that local authorities are just talking the talk and […]
28th June 2013

How the arts can encourage ‘a world that works for everyone…’

Attending the Charity Awards recently it was great to see Pallant House Gallery win an award for their project ‘Outside In’ supporting people who have traditionally been marginalised by society and excluded from the arts. Having started life as a curator,  working in both the commercial art world and then for a charitable educational arts trust,  I saw first-hand the issues of access for those wanting to both participate and engage with art at all levels and unfortunately barriers to access were often perpetuated by the elitism and exclusivity of the art establishment itself. However, this project flies in the face of that and a gallery that has one of the best collections of British Modern Art is now extending its reach to engage 1,500 participating artists since the project began – those who had earlier found it difficult to access the mainstream art world. It has also garnered wholehearted support from an increasing audience and the ‘Outside In’ is a project that has gone from strength to strength. For me this  represents a great example of where charities,  if nothing else act as a catalyst to break down barriers, encourage people who think, or are told they ‘can’t’  to […]
16th June 2013

SOFII and the celebration of fantastic fundraising ideas…

On Thursday of last week I took some time out of the office to attend the wonderfully named IWITOT. For those of you unfamiliar with this acronym, it stands for I Wish I’d Thought of That, an event hosted this year at the Bishopsgate Institute in East London by SOFII http://www.sofii.org/about I’d heard excellent things about the event. A friend of mine who shall remain nameless played a part in last year’s proceedings and highly recommended I attend. The premise of the event is to showcase 20 different fundraising ideas that 20 different fundraisers wish they’d thought of. The afternoon was kick started by SOFII’s very own Ken Burnett, who must be one of the busiest men in fundraising. After a well delivered and emotional story, Ken left us with a line that was to sum up the whole day… ‘One man gathers what another man spills’, written by Ken Kasey, late author of ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’. At the time I did not grasp how perfectly that line would frame the afternoon’s proceedings. I spent a lot of my time listening to the achievements of charities and becoming very motivated and inspired by the fantastic work that […]
17th May 2013

Let’s recognise the achievements of trust fundraisers…

We all know the classical stereotypes of each fundraising discipline. Major donor fundraisers are outgoing types, skilled at quickly building relationships for the long-term mutual benefit of an organisation and donor. Corporate new business fundraisers are tenacious, at ease in networking events and quick to identify potential synergies between organisations. Direct marketing professionals are excellent data people, often with creative flair whist events fundraisers are bubbly, energetic and highly organised. The interesting thing to consider is the stereotype of the highly valued trust fundraiser. Essential to the income of a number of voluntary sector organisations, these wordsmiths are often painted as shy and retiring types, preferring to sit comfortably behind a computer, firing out compelling fundraising propositions rather than engage with donors in face-to-face fundraising. It’s often said that stereotypes exist for a reason. If so, are trust fundraisers in danger of being left behind by changing external conditions requiring more than simply a timely and well written funding application? Are these fundraisers doing enough to change the age-old perceptions of their role? It’s well documented that the fundraising landscape over the past few years has been challenging for bid writers. Increased competition as other voluntary sector organisations seek essential […]