Thursday, August 7, 2008

Sean is always learning

A few years ago I watched a chap called Gavin Coopey do a training session called 'Innovate or Die' at a fundraising conference. In it, he did tons of interactive exercises and showed us some really cool tools for brainstorming.

I loved it, and shortly after, he began work at Pareto Fundraising as a senior consultant (by the way, there are some pretty rigorous recruitment criteria for jobs in Pareto companies, it is not just a matter of doing a good presentation!)

Gavin has presented this session, to great reviews, through Pareto Fundraising masterclass and training sessions, again receiving great reviews.

I love new ideas, and pushing barriers. We need to be constantly learning, testing and proving (or disproving) concepts. We have a few rules at work:
1) Always give advice that is in the long term interest of our clients' beneficiaries.
2) Always do the work 'The Pareto Way' - which means following our established and proven strategies, tactics and ideas
3) If you want to challenge individual tactics within the Pareto Way, you must test them against your own ideas and prove one way or the other.

(I will do another blog or article about what exactly the Pareto Way is, so come back soon!)

This means we can be cautious and innovative at the same time. New staff are taught 'The Pareto Way' but then given the chance and opportunity to challenge their bosses and the founders of the company. We are effectively telling them to prove us wrong.

As well as staff intelligence, agencies like ours have another resource, which in-house teams can never have: A load of clients, also with great ideas and challenges. Again, we work with our clients to challenge the Pareto Way, most clients work with us on testing tactics, constantly trying to improve and change little bits, ideas and big strategies.

Often the first job with a charity is a mail appeal, and with that first mailing we tend to apply all the Pareto Way tactics. The first 'test' or 'trial' is of course to prove to the charity that these tactics work. (Which they always do; if the charity goes for it, we usually at least double their income - the most recent new client saw income lift from about AU$200k to nearly $1m*, nearly five times as much money from the same donors/customers...)

*Aussie, Canadian and US dollars are all about the same at the moment.

But after that first mailing, where do we get our ideas from?

Over the years clients have asked to try new things, and so have our own staff. However, on top of that we still need inspiration for learning, grabbing new ideas.

One option is seminars and conferences - fundraising ones, but also non-fundraising sessions. I got some great ideas at the last couple of conferences I've attended (to share in a future blog). Another good resource is The Showcase of Fundraising Innovation and Inspiration. Email Maxine there for a free id and password.

Of course another great source of ideas is to rip them off others. Keep your commercial direct mail and emails, and donate to loads of charities and spot different things they send you.

Remember, no matter what results you get and what successes you have had, you are always learning.

1 comment:

John Lepp said...

Well I agree completely of course Sean - I feel honoured to constantly be making new connections with people with all sorts of experiences and plugging into their knowledge. The blogsphere is full of new information and inspiration and yet, it seems as if we are a industry in some sort of holding pattern. People unwilling to try new things or take even the smallest risks... The question is - how do we get around that?

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