Sunday, July 20, 2008

Al Gore's Commanders Intent

Jonathon Grapsas, our regional director in North America sent me a link to Al Gore's latest video about climate change. Click here to see the video.

Even though it is very US-focused and many of my readers are not in the US, it’s worth watching for two reasons:
1) It is appropriate for pretty much every country
2) They way he delivers his speech.

In the speech he calls for America to “commit to producing 100% of our electricity from renewable energy and truly clean carbon free sources within ten years.” Wow. (If you are short on time, fast forward the video to about 1:50).

It is a very clear call to action with targets, timeframe and it’s supported by his reasoning.

At first it is incredibly unbelievable – America leading the way in cutting carbon emissions and saving our planet? Bear in mind the USA is still the world’s biggest culprit when it comes to carbon emissions, and shows its leadership by not signing up to Kyoto and hiding behind the fact that the emerging economies have not signed up.

But then again, Al Gore’s speech is comparable (and directly inspired) by the equally unbelievable speech by JFK’s in 1961.

Back then, in the midst of the cold war with USSR, JFK called upon America to put a man on the moon – and bring him back safely – within a decade. For people back then, that would have been as unbelievable as Al Gore’s speech. There is of course, one key difference between Gore and JFK – which I will come back to later.

So, what has this to do with you? Well, climate change has a lot to do with all of us.

While I am sure millions of PowerPoint presentations have been improved by Gore’s movie “The Inconvenient Truth” , heads of charities (and companies like Pareto Fundraising) can take inspiration from the clear big picture goal – such clarity gives people clear guidelines for all of the actions and little decisions they have to make on a day to day basis.

And to top it off, at about the 4:50 mark, Gore begins a very well delivered call to action. The sort of call to action that we often wish our CEOs and Chairs would make when delivering speeches to potential and actual donors!

In a rather brilliant and easy to read book, “Made to Stick” Chip and Dan Heath talk about the ‘Commanders Intent’. Gore is using this same technique, articulating an incredibly clear and easy to understand vision in a directly practical way. (
Anyone wanting to help achieve the vision has enough information to help them with all decisions they make on the way.

I work on a daily basis with lots of charities, and most of them don’t really have a plan for next year, never mind a long term vision. Jonathon wrote about this in a recent blog entry : “[I often ask]... why do you need more money? Secondly, what are the organizations growth plans? Invariably I get blank stares to both questions – and often not for lack of asking on the fundraisers part.”

This is not to be taken as too harsh a criticism of course – please remember that most charities exist hand to mouth, are understaffed and have boards made up of brilliant, caring people who are rarely business leaders. In fact, boards are more often experts in the cause (health care, development, human rights etc) or they are motivated, well-intentioned people with a connection to the cause.

If you don’t know what your charity (or business, or even personal) vision is, then have a crack at your commander’s intent.

Oh, the key difference in the speeches? JFK was President after being fairly elected. Just imagine if Al Gore had been President for the past eight years.

No comments:

Disaster Fundraising Guide download it here