Tag Archives: Australia

Focus on where you want to go

Over the last few weeks I have been travelling in Australia and New Zealand. Sometimes I have been travelling with friends and sometimes on my own.
ImageI’ve learnt lots of new things, mostly through trial and error and with the help and kindness of strangers. Who knew you were not allowed luggage on the train from Wellington? (it has its own secret carriage) Or that shops often shut at 4pm and lunch finishes at 2.30?

I’ve been grateful to many people for their directions and help. I also have several observations.

  • People are kind and happy to help – and pleased to be asked for help.
  • People are proud of and keen to tell you about the area in which they live.
  • People like to recommend places to go and things to do and see.
  • People are interested in where you are from and how you have enjoyed visiting their country.
  • Most people have a friend or relative in the UK that they wonder if you know.
  • Most people are rubbish at giving directions.

Most people are rubbish at giving directions because they know too much about the area and tell you information that is irrelevant. Most people also start by telling you the way not to go. For example….

Helpful person 1

  • Helpful person 1: “So you come out of the station and on your left you will see the water.”
  • Me: “Great – So I look for water…”
  • Helpful person 1: “Don’t go to there”

Helpful person 2

  • Helpful person 2: “Go to the end of the road. At the roundabout see the big council building, with a yellow and blue sign and to the left of that there is a park.”
  • Me: “Great – so I’m looking for a council building, yellow and blue and a park”
  • Helpful person 2: “Don’t go that way”

Helpful person 3

  • Helpful person 3: “At the bus stop you see a deli type shop with beautiful flowers in the window and it does excellent coffee.”
  • Me: “OK – looking for the deli and flowers”
  • Helpful person 3: “Don’t go that way – go the other way”

OK so I think you get it. My question is; wouldn’t it be better to focus on what I should be looking for and where I should be going, rather than giving me information about the landmarks that I should avoid?

It makes me think of a driving analogy that a friend told me.

“You are driving. The road is icy and your car spins out of control. There are telegraph posts at about 10 metre spaces along the roadside. If all you think about is not hitting the post, the likelihood is that you will hit the post as that is what you are focusing on. What you should be focusing on is aiming for the gap. You need to focus on where you are going.”

We often spend time concerned with where we don’t want to go, whether in work, relationships, life or simply giving directions to hapless travellers.

If we focus on where we do want to go rather than on where we don’t want to go, surely we stand more chance of arriving at the right destination?

Same challenges different time zone

Last week fundraisers from across Queensland gathered on the Australian Gold Coast for the Fundraising Institute Australia Dare to be Different conference.

Many people asked me what I thought the differences were between fundraising in the UK and Australia. I struggled to come up with many apart from the difference in population size (Australia approx 22 million and UK approx 61 million). My observations are that there are more similarities than differences….

  • People give to people. Fundraising is about building relationships and connecting donors to the cause and showing them the difference they can make in the world. As Kay Sprinkel Grace observed in the opening plenary, fundraisers across the world are brokers of dreams.
  • A tough economic environment poses challenges for fundraisers the world over. Fundraisers must find a balance between focusing on activities that will bring in the highest rewards as well as identifying future trends and developing creative solutions as Tony Elischer demonstrated in his sessions.
  • Recruiting new donors is hard and recruiting the right donors is harder.  Adrian Sargeant stressed that ‘it’s better to spend more bringing in people who are right then have better response rates from people who will never give again’, and helped us understand how to identify and attract the right donors.
  • Keeping new donors is even harder. In the UK 50% of new donors are lost in the first year. Then 30% are lost year on year. In the USA 75% never come back. Organisations must build trust and loyalty and develop long-term donor relationships.
  • As a sector we are very open to sharing and learning from each other. Christiana Stergiou and I took the audience through as many fundraising examples from www.sofii.org as we could in an hour and encouraged fundraisers to use this excellent free resource as well as  helping others by submitting their own exhibits.
  • At Dare to be Different it was refreshing to learn from what had not gone so well with an open and impressive session from Marcus Blease from Cerebral Palsy Alliance,  Trudi Mitchell from Cancer Council NSW and Paul Tavatgis from Cornucopia Fundraising. As a sector we could learn so very much more if we were more open about what did not go so well.
  • Storytelling is the new buzzword. Human beings are hardwired to learn through storytelling . Anthropologists contend that 70% of our learning is through narrative. So it’s no surprise that it’s a skill that fundraisers want to perfect.
  • We love jargon. The usual suspects kept cropping up and the top three terms were supporter journey, touchpoints and integrated campaigns as well as some new acronyms that I have never heard before.
  • The general public has a perception of how charities should operate. Many make decision to donate to a cause based on the % of their donation that will go to services and do not like to think that their donation is ‘wasted’ on administration or staff costs. Dan Pallotta made a case for transparency and the importance of investing in order to effectively fundraise and the importance of communicating the real cost of raising funds to donors, supporters and the public.
  • Fundraising is not always perceived well outside of the sector. Asking for bequests was picked up by the tabloid press, quick to paint a negative picture of the sensitive topic of how fundraisers ask people to consider leaving a gift in their will, which could make a lasting difference to the world.
  • The world is small. I met several of ex-colleagues from the UK and from the NSPCC as well as Twitter friends. I liked how the world got smaller.

So that’s the top line. But for me the most important thing I came away with was inspiration from meeting a collective of passionate people doing great work for a range of causes with a restless energy to do more. I’m proud to have the opportunity to work with you. And not forgetting, that in addition to your great work, you all know how to party.

You can’t get romantic about baseball

I’m currently on route to the FIA conference in Australia. On the flight yesterday in between being fed like a Christmas goose I managed to get a spot of inspiration.

One of the in-flight movies was Moneyball Starring Brad Pitt and directed by Bennett Miller.

Based on the bestseller Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, Moneyball is the true story of the Oakland A’s baseball team general manager Billy Beane.

Billy knew that they couldn’t compete with the big budgets that the other teams had to buy players so he had to win using different tactics.

Billy developed a new way of recruiting players by using computer based analysis to buy combinations of players with undervalued, yet complementary skills to form a winning combination. From changing the ‘normal’ approach based on the collected wisdom of players, managers and coaches Billy focused on buying ‘wins’ rather than players.

At first he was criticised for reinventing a system that had been working OK for years and threatening the game and the way that ‘things got done’. Then his strategy started to work. With his team Billy changed the game. His strategy was adopted by others. In fact two years later the Red Sox won the world series using Billy’s philosophy.

Despite his overall success Billy still thought he failed because the Oakland A’s didn’t win the final game of the season. His personal goal was all about his emotional romantic attachment to the game and that last win.

What can we learn from Moneyball

  • It takes guts to try something new
  • You can’t win by being the same as everyone else
  • Helping people understand and bringing them with you is very important – it can be lonely without allies.  It was only when Billy helped the team understand his strategy that he started to see success.
  • You have to have passion. Billy’s passion for his team and emotional involvement with the game was a driving force.
  • Billy tells a baseball scout who criticises his strategy to ‘adapt or die’. It’s true. The world changes, your competition changes and you have a choice to adapt or to die.
  • Know what success looks like and celebrate it.

So watch it for yourself. It’s got a great song at the end that made me cry a little bit and proved me wrong. You can get romantic about baseball.