Monday, 21 September 2009

We Are One

It was a year ago to the day that we sat in Tim's back bedroom and registered our company. Some highlights since then...
  • The whole Brisbane adventure with Pareto. So near and yet so far.
  • Getting our first teeny tiny office – thanks Justin and Steve.
  • Hiring Louise and Rebecca. Salary bill looking scary.
  • Working with Richard Young again.
  • Winning the VSO account (more on this later).
  • Registering for VAT but forgetting to add it to invoices – sorry Andrea.
  • Hiring Emma, our Finance Director. No more VAT cock-ups.
  • Winning WWF's Earth Hour (we danced all the way back to the station).
  • Getting our second, much bigger office. Overheads Climbing.
  • Poaching Mark (sorry Scope).
  • Hitting the streets with Centrepoint (thanks Roger & Jenny)
  • Packing boxes for World Jewish Relief.
  • Hanging out with the good people at various Action for Children projects.
  • Richard Young the younger being sent to us by the gods of design.
  • The whole Arctic Monkeys & Oxfam thing.
  • Losing the VSO account. Doh.
  • Poaching Sinead (sorry Bluefrog).
  • Filling our client list mug rack.
  • This afternoon's celebrations.
Thank you to everyone who believed.

James & Tim

Friday, 11 September 2009

The Cheese and Onion Will Change Your Life

'Read widely' is one of the most often-repeated hints for people who want to 'be more creative' and advance their careers.

Now I read a lot – no worries there. But the 'widely' bit trips me up. I tend to assume that 'widely' means psychology, business and politics instead of novels. But actually that means I read a lot of stuff that falls pretty much in my personal goldfish bowl.

Fortunately, when I'm not reading I watch some telly. And at the moment I'm hooked on House – so hooked in fact that I decided that I wanted to read something about clinical medicine. This in turn brought back to mind a conversation with a very charming junior doctor who, when I asked her, told me that doctors do indeed have a 'cheat' book that they consult all the time. It's called the Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine or, in the trade, the 'Cheese and Onion' in homage to early editions' green and yellow covers.

So I bought it. And, contrary to what you might think, it is the most amazing, bonkers, insightful, useful, out-there book I have read in years.

On page three, it talks about what ideals are:

"Like stars they're hard to reach but helpful for finding your way in the dark."

Then it teaches you how to interview and leave space for people to talk:

"If you interrogate a robin, it will fly away. But tree-like stillness may bring him to your hand."

Then it gives you a three-day programme to help you genuinely empathise with people who are dying.

All of the above happens before page seven – although I have to admit the type is pretty small.

Along the way it mentions Sod's Law and provides a cross reference to page 436 where (after a quote from Damon Runyon) it explains, by way of epidemiology, why even 50:50 odds aren't all that they seem.

As you can tell, I am – after only a few hours exposure – slightly in awe of this zen-master style Haynes Manual of human frailty and interaction. But frankly, you could tear the latter 95% of this book's pages out, re-title it "How to be much, much less of an arse" and it would still be a bargain at £19.99.

Buy it. You will not be disappointed


Thursday, 3 September 2009

Do I smell?

I donate to a number of charities. Some of them I support because I know the people who run the projects, some are projects I have visited, but the majority are charities that simply found me, and asked me.

Now what really is beginning to wind me up is how few of these fine organisations have bothered to contact me again and tell me what the hell is going on. I know we all bang on about donor stewardship but despite all the evidence and research why are so few organisations bothering? And trust me, I'm getting fed up of being ignored.

The answer I suspect is simple. Money.

We have to face up to the fact that it costs to keep people giving. But the question we have to answer is how much are we prepared to spend. I've seen charities spend more than they actually save - which isn't difficult when you're forking out 27p just for a stamp.

Of course on-line offers us a glimmer of help. We're running a significant programme for BHF where donors and prospects are kept busy each month with on-line actions and activities, but they are blessed with a file rich with email addresses and a website rich with content. For other charities I support it's not always the case.

Sadly I know for a fact that eight of them don't have my email address. Their fault. They didn't ask me at the point of recruitment. But when we know that a 10% drop in attrition from a file of 5,000 donors will generate thousands of pounds, it's got to be worth rethinking our programmes. Especially as we now know that this is easily achieved through good on-line stewardship.

Getting my correct email address has to be a priority. I don't understand why someone hasn't just called me: "Hi Tim, we don't want any more money, just your email address. We want to show you how your money is making a difference. We've got some great pictures, a report, some analysis, a child's drawing (whatever) and wanted to email it over to you". I'd give them my address like a shot - and thank them for the call.

And it wouldn't cost much. It's quick and easy.

In fact none of this should cost much. We're working on programmes that are cost effective, simple to implement, immensely engaging and highly demonstrable.

So maybe soon I'll stop feeling ignored and start being involved - or maybe I should just go and have another shower.