Saturday, 29 November 2008

I love Woolworths

There I've said it and it's true. I have a real fondness, a huge affection, a love for a shop.

I've known Woolies for as long as, well almost anything. This is where my Mum clothed me. This is where I'd 'borrow' the odd sweet, save up and buy my first single, and obsess over those impossibly long felt-tip sets.

Is it just me?

Surely this great institution has been a part of all our lives? And what a sad thought that I might not be able to share those same experiences with my children. I really don't want to watch the reflection of the screen in my son's eyes when we choose his first stationery set.

This is real potent emotion stuffed full of sherbet-smelling nostalgia.

And I know it's not just me. A friend told me the other night that if someone knocked on his door asking for a pound for Woolworths he'd "throw a couple in". Which is an odd thought because he'd probably tell a charity that "times were a bit hard..."

Woolworths and all its Britishness and commercial incompetence might be a million miles from the high street charity but I think there is a lesson to draw on.

My relationship with Woolies started when I was young - it answered my early desires. Perhaps not the clothes but a bag of pick 'n mix and some 80s Pop.

So not surprisingly, I find I have a deeper level of affection for charities that were part of my childhood. I have really fond memories of going out at night with my mum and doing the house to house collection for Barnardo's. It answered my desire to spend time with her, away from my siblings.

Charities should try and engage more with children and their families. Become integral players in childhood memories. I know this might seem like long-term planning but it's really not that long before a child in primary school will be graduating and starting work.

So what went wrong for poor old Woolworths?

Well that's easy. They didn't plan for the long run. They didn't go on-line.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Harvest for Our World

Before I start, let me just say that we love Harvest. We recommend that you use Harvest. And we think that the people at Harvest are truly wonderful individuals.

Why such enthusiasm? Well...

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

Welcome to Scunthorpe

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

Who's in need?

I met with a senior planner on Friday who had just finished working on a large piece of research with a group of doctors. He said that the rise in visits from patients who 'just felt down' was noticeable. The suggestion was that the recessionary doom was impacting on our mental state. No surprise I haven't been jumping with joy recently. But what do you expect when everywhere you turn there's some miserable commentary on the recession? Apparently there's a link with negative thinking and brain neurons - too many bad thoughts and your brain actually physically starts changing (or something like that). So I figured that before I turn to the valium I might just stop watching the news.

But I was cheered up that evening watching the BBC's Children in Need.

If you are a fundraiser in the UK I don't think you have an excuse for missing it. Not because of its class acts (obviously) but because this would be the first time we would witness in real time what effect the economic downturn would have on public donations and support. It was generally believed that this year would not be the best for Terry.

But Friday night's show was a spectacular, positive, up-lifting and memorable event. And I think if you were watching you'd have learnt a lot. Because when times are tough people do come together – and in an amazing way. Unbelievably more money was raised that night than ever before.

It seems that rather than ignore the recession we should use it as a way to unite people. Judging by the night's success and the obvious pleasure felt by hundreds of thousands of people, helping others is a great way of finding respite from the otherwise relentless bad news.

This will be of no surprise to the hardened fundraiser but nonetheless with all the doom and gloom it's a useful reminder. Perhaps we should talk to those doctors. Maybe they should prescribe a good bit of fundraising before reaching for the happy pills.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Zipping up my boots

Earlier this week, I had the privilege of pounding the pavements with an outreach team working with street-homeless people. We met up for a bite to eat at seven and for the next five hours odd we walked around the west end talking to people who are sleeping rough.

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

Time is money

I'm working on our budgets (what joy) and the question on my mind is how we should be charging for our fine services. 

We have obviously put together a rate card, which reflects our costs, and how long we think it will take to do stuff. It looks quite sensible and competitive. But is this the right way to charge? Is this really an efficient pricing method for the sector? 

The reason I ask is that for one recent job we priced by the hour - just for fun. And guess what? We only had two copy rounds and it took half the time we estimated. Was this because of our excellent response to the brief? I'd like to think so. But maybe, just maybe, it's because the hourly rate forces everyone involved, particularly those writing the brief and signing off the work, to focus minds and work efficiently. 

I think next we'll experiment with a one month appeal, from start to finish. This should cut down on accruing unnecessary additional hours – there simply won't be any spare. I'll let you know how it goes. Until then, I guess we'll stick to the rate card. 

Right, back to the budget. 

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

A killer career move

We're looking for brilliant people to work with us. Finding them isn't easy. But it could be worse. At least I don't work for the Atomic Weapons Establishment.

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.


Oh Happy Day