Saturday, 13 December 2008
The original versions got banned (which I was secretly very pleased about) but even the toned down ones are pretty hard-hitting.
Or so I thought.
I took this snap at London Bridge on our way home from visiting a Centrepoint project down south of the river. It's run by a wonderful woman called Jenny who, after we'd done the official bit, came to the pub with us for a quick drink.
Now Jenny, through her work, has a unique window on south London's gang culture. And she has a way with words – which made for a series of stories that I still find hard to believe. I'm not going to try to re-tell her tales. But I will tell you one thing. Jenny told us that she'd been to ten funerals this year of young men who died violent deaths. Ten.
So, once again, Centrepoint opened a door for me into a world that I thought I knew about but, as it turns out, didn't. It seems that there's hard-hitting – and then there's truly hard-hitting.
God love you, Jenny. There can't be many people who could do what you do.
Saturday, 29 November 2008
There I've said it and it's true. I have a real fondness, a huge affection, a love for a shop.
Monday, 24 November 2008
We set Open up as a network business - one that can draw on the best people as and when it needs them. That network now includes people all over the UK, in Canada and in Australia.
Now this is all very well. But when your team are confined only to the same planet (rather than to the same building) then managing their time and money can be very tricky.
So we decided to use something called Harvest. It's a brilliant online app that means all our partners can enter timesheet information via a desktop widget while we can keep a handle on who's doing what, see how much it's costing, generate invoices and all that dull but vital stuff.
Anyway, when we signed up for Harvest I noticed that they do something called a New Founders Programme where every month they give a one-year subscription to the system to a recent start-up. So I wrote them a nice email, told them the Open story and guess what...
So, from all of us at Open, THANK YOU Harvest. We loved your product from the start. But we love it even more now that you've been so generous.
Thursday, 20 November 2008
It appears that our blog suffers from the Scunthorpe Problem.
Apparently, a number people who read us at home are having trouble showing their colleagues the site at work because whoreallygivesatoss contains a rude word. Not toss. Another one.
It's nowhere near as rude as Scunthorpe's rude word but it's clearly enough to get us blocked by a couple of over-zealous filters.
We're planning to migrate off blogger in the next couple of months which should fix the problem. Until then, please tell your friends that they can subscribe via the link at the bottom of our homepage. Although perhaps you shouldn't use the word bottom.
Saturday, 15 November 2008
Friday, 14 November 2008
The evening was fascinating, surprising, harrowing, inspiring, frightening, shocking and revealing. It was also bloody cold. At the end of it, the anonymous and marginalised people we walk past every day had become three-dimensional. And my perception of the lives that they lead had moved from hazy preconception to a chilling reality.
Anyway, I'm not telling you this because I want you all to think that I'm a nice bloke. This is my job, after all, and the whole thing was arranged by Centrepoint as a way to find stories that would make their donors dig deep this Christmas.
I'm telling you because the next day I sat down and wrote an appeal that just seemed to pour out onto the page. And at the risk of sounding immodest, I'm sure it's going to do very, very well.
It was a valuable reminder of the importance of leaving the office, meeting the 'real people' (i.e. the ones who do the work) and getting involved with the beneficiaries. It's all too easy to moan that we can't get the stories we need from 'them in operations'. But the stories are out there if you just get up and look. And they're the things that make what we do work.
As Kurt Vonnegut once said, "The truth is powerful stuff. People don't expect it."
Tuesday, 11 November 2008
Wednesday, 5 November 2008
You have to pity the poor writer whose job it is to persuade graduates that making nuclear weapons is a good career move. And you have to grudgingly admire whoever responded to that brief with the proposition that a job at the Atomic Weapons Establishment is one 'For Inquisitive Minds'.
However, when you look at the questions that supposedly exemplify this vital mental attitude, you have to worry. Take, for example, the oh-so-probing query bottom left – 'What Goes on at the Atomic Weapons Establishment?'
Hmmmm. Is it something to do with cakes? Lifesaving drugs? Bicycle repairs? Oh hang on. Is it about enhancing the effectiveness of weapons designed to slaughter hundreds of thousands of innocent people?
The clue, as they say, is in the name. A name which, you can't help noticing, is admirably explicit. And acronyms very neatly into AWE. An emotion which might precede fear (and, obviously, violent death) for a nanosecond if you're ever on the receiving end of their handiwork.
But all this is knocked/blown into a cocked hat by the world-class irony of that little logo at the bottom.
AWE is apparently an Investor in People.
Anyway, if you fancy a career for enquiring minds that doesn't involve upgrading the Kiddy-cinerator 5000 then please send us your CV. We'd really love to hear from you.
Monday, 27 October 2008
On the day that we declared our new business officially open, the UK officially went into recession. Timing, as they say, is everything.
The Daily Mail is prophesying doom. Rumours of slashed budgets are everywhere. And the air is thick with pleas from fundraising consultants NOT to cut back on fundraising spend.
No surprises so far.
What's lacking is information on what's actually happening. Which is why Fundraising Recession Watch – set up by Sean Triner – is getting several thousand hits a week. He's trying to draw together data instead of listening to rumours.
Anyway, while we wait for the numbers to tell the story, we thought we'd pop out onto the street and ask people if they had changed their giving habits as a result of the recession.
This is what they said...
Thursday, 23 October 2008
Thursday, 16 October 2008
It's a nice guitar (living on credit cards while we start the business seems to bring out the spendthrift in me). But the gift was more symbolic than practical.
You see, many, many years ago, Tim shared a flat with his friend Andrew. Andrew played guitar very well (and still does) while Tim played guitar very badly (and still does).
On a Friday night, the boys would stagger home from the Student Union with their friends. Tim would beg Andrew to play guitar. Andrew would refuse. So Tim would grab the guitar and flail away at it like a man chopping firewood. Apparently the ditty most frequently in line for butchery was Bob Marley's Redemption Song.
As a result, Andrew would grab the guitar and start to play - beautifully.
The obvious moral is that if you want something to happen but you're not quite up to the task then don't wait. You're unlikely to improve enough to do it as well as you want. You'll probably just forget about it.
Far better to pick up the guitar and give it a good, loud, horrible twang.
Because with a bit of luck, someone who plays better than you will take it off you and play the song really well. Someone who knows more about the subject will amend your Wikipedia entry. Someone who knows more about lifetime value modelling will tweak your spreadsheet. Someone who has done it before will offer their help.
To this day, Tim swears by his patented 'pick up the guitar' motivational technique. And having taken the metaphorical guitar off him on many occasions, I know he's right.
The alternative is stagnation. The alternative is letting ideas that could blossom in someone else's mind go to waste.
Go on. Pick up the guitar.
PS In order to complete a hat-trick of Bob Marley links inside a month, I'll leave you with this.
Monday, 13 October 2008
Thursday, 9 October 2008
Excuse the blurry picture but my phone doesn't have a Macro setting. Anyway, this is a Waitrose charity token and you get given one whenever you shop. Then, on your way out you get to choose who you want to support by putting your token into one of three boxes.
While I was there, I watched about ten people (three of them children, who get a disc of their own when mum or dad shops) stand in front of the box and have a good think before they made their choice. It was fascinating to see how much time and thought they put into it.
Charities are nominated by customers and change every month. At the moment, from left to right, we have the local Age Concern, a local primary school (who need a new playground) and a local centre for people with learning difficulties. At the end of the month, Waitrose will weigh the tokens and distribute a thousand pounds according to their customers preferences.
First of all, hats off to Waitrose for giving away twelve grand a year to the local community and hats off to them for giving local people a say in how they give it.
But what Waitrose might not realise is that they have inadvertently created one of the coolest experiments in fundraising I have ever seen.
Let's start with the maths. Just look at those tokens. There are THOUSANDS of them. So I'm guessing that the results are statistically rock-solid. I mean, that's a near 100% response from a brilliant sample (Waitrose shoppers, for those of you outside the UK, tend to index off the scale on charity donor files).
On that basis I think we can say that, in this part of town at least, helping old people is more popular than helping people with learning difficulties which is, in turn, more popular than helping build school playgrounds.
But wait, there's more...
The person who tipped me off about this marvellous experiment earlier in the week told me that the people with learning difficulties were trailing a poor third. So when I popped into the shop I was expecting this post to be about how tough it is raising money to help people with disabilities (which I know isn't the same thing but that's what my friend had told me the third vat was for).
But when I got there, learning difficulties had surged into second place. Which makes me wonder whether, once they got to a certain distance behind, people started giving to them because of their lack of support.
So maybe this should be an article about how sometimes it's good to appeal on the basis that not many people give to you and that you're not getting your share. And come to think of it, having written more legacy appeals than I care to remember, I know that message can really work.
Of course, to test my hypothesis I'll need to weigh the discs daily. And while I'm at it, I'd like to try changing the copy and design on the top of the boxes which is rather dull.
I'll let you know what the manager of Waitrose says. Apart from "Oh. Are you that weirdo that our checkout manager apprehended taking pictures of the boxes?"
Wednesday, 8 October 2008
Friday, 3 October 2008
One of the ideas it put forward is that success in the world of Web 2.0 is driven by repeated failure. Here's a quote that sums it up nicely:
"...the market expresses its judgment not in cash but in expenditure of energy. Failure is free, high quality research, offering direct evidence of what works and what doesn't. Groups that people want to join are sorted from groups that people don't want to join every day."
If you're trying to 'create' social networks that sounds pretty depressing - and it looks even more depressing when you see the Power Law Graph that this phenomenon creates (if you want to know about the maths then you probably need the book).
But, as Shirky points out, the fact that so many people are trying means that spectacular successes will inevitably result. Wikipedia for example.
So I guess the message here is 'prepare for failure but keep trying'.
With this in mind, I built an Open Fundraising Forum last night. It took an hour and a half and I think it works pretty well considering. You could do the same thing for your supporters or just for your friends using the free software and hosting you find on Yuku.
I will now, in all probability, have to watch the digital equivalent of tumbleweed blow across my creation. But I might not - especially if you go there and post a comment. And even if I do, what the hell? I tried. And there are plenty more things worth trying.
Sunday, 28 September 2008
Friday, 26 September 2008
Then again, you don't have to have a sophisticated view of development issues to want to make a difference. And the latest episode of his occasionally excruciating epic has had (at the time of writing) 47,827 views on YouTube.
Read that again. Then go and have a look at the site.
Even if you disregard the content, this is Web 2.0 with all the bells and whistles. A nice bit of tab navigation takes you to Flickr, to YouTube (where all the action is) and to Facebook - where our man has a group 1,118 strong.
Pretty impressive for one 27 year-old bloke with a camcorder, a laptop and the ability to weave some simple social networking platforms together. I wonder what kind of budget most charities would assign to create that kind of noise in the Blogosphere?
So hats off to Save the Children who (in Bangladesh at least) seem to know a good idea when they see one and have shown off their work. Hats off to the people who have given - despite the fact that the donation page opens with the line 'Please Don't Feel Obliged to Donate'. And hats off to Shawn and his mate for making it happen.
Now who wants to do something better?
Then you'll get all our tedious ramblings pinged direct to your inbox where you can ignore them at your convenience.
We recently went to Australia to see an old friend Sean.
It's not a pleasant flight but here's a tip. If you go into the chemist at Bangkok Airport and say 'do you have anything to help me sleep' then your next clear memory will be the stewardess shaking you awake as the cleaners try to steal your iPod.
So what is Pareto Fundraising all about? When Sean's not busy staying at my house and poaching staff, what is he up to?
Building a reputation of being a world-class fundraising agency that produces 'data led creative' we're told. Focusing on impact and integrity. Yep. Sounds good. But isn't that what we all claim to do? Solid RFV, focus on the Pareto Principle. Surely this is just old fashioned DM?
Well maybe. But maybe the science of our trade has become somewhat neglected and a little unloved over here. Confined to the dark, damp corners. Maybe, just maybe, we should all get back inside the box and build our plans off the back of some sensible and sadly sometimes highly complex data modelling.
Benchmarking models have failed to captivate the sector and get universal buy in but when you see the consequences of sharing you get to see how the (not so) backwater markets are rapidly catching up.
All this cleverness costs money. But so what if the net returns are so great? Wouldn't you be happy to pay a bit extra to be pretty darned sure what a new recruit will be worth over four years? Or how to boost your income AND annoy fewer donors with mailings they are statistically almost certain not to respond to?
The UK is different, of course. DM fundraising is more evolved, the market is more competitive and the 300% increases that Pareto have scored with some clients might be harder to replicate.
But it doesn't take 300% to make your programme look a whole lot better...
It was a great week. I made peace with an old friend, met some clever minds and learnt a few things to.
Thanks Sean (and Jan and Paul). You're right to be proud. See you again soon.
Monday, 22 September 2008
Friday, 19 September 2008
Saturday, 13 September 2008
Who really gives a toss?
That's one reason we chose the title. The other reason is that this question occupies many of our waking hours. Who really gives a toss about the state of the world? Where are they? And how do we help translate giving a toss into giving something more useful?