Why lost purpose in Community Fundraising is a strategic killer

Purpose is hot right now. Like someone woke up one day and went ‘purpose….i’ll package that’. It’s everywhere in charity, business, marketing, branding and personal development. Rediscovered. And yet its still surprisingly hard to find and often nowhere to be seen in places that matter most.

When I was a kid there was this other kid who we used to play with at school and he had a reputation for asking why. All the time. Literally all the time. He could drill down with the word ‘why’ beyond Einstein, Newton or Hawking. When a question was answered he found another ‘why’. In charities and over 30 years experience, surprisingly I have still not seen enough of why or purpose, especially in the everyday decisions and activity. It’s a core principle of mine as I work with people, teams and organisations and I have learnt to always focus on purpose first personally, as a team and as a cause or organisation. This core mix of finding, even rediscovering purpose is a game changer if tuned into. The early half of my fundraising career was in Community Fundraising, and now looking back and working with lots of different size charities I know that there is one central truth and revelation. It is this.

Those who define, articulate and are guided by purpose raise more money

I can hear the kid again…why? Well I confess its going to take a lot to prove that statement, and I guess that’s for another day – my experience and intuition will have to be enough for now. Fundraising without clarity on your purpose is lost and at sea. But fundraising without purpose in the community, in local fundraising and in traditional raised income from volunteers is more than lost when purpose is lost. It’s a specific subset of a problem and its worth drilling down into the challenges that exist. These are the key reasons in particular why Community Fundraising loses its way on using and driving purpose.

  1. Purpose becomes implicit rather than explicit and over time simply gets forgotten
  2. People dive into how to raise money first rather than connect and explain before
  3. Marketing and branding reinvent and obscure in slogans and tag lines
  4. General statements reign supreme over specific
  5. Leaders lead the wrong things that make organisations lose their sense of purpose
  6. Community fundraising is often in its own bubble and often isn’t served as well as it could be by the rest of the organisation
  7. Products become things with their own life rather than things designed to serve purpose
  8. The intense practical nature of community fundraisers means they move onto delivery sometimes too fast
  9. Strategy in community takes purpose for granted rather than defining as core and guiding
  10. In the vacuum Community Fundraisers invent their own versions rather than find, define and use a core accepted and used purpose with discipline and …..purpose

These factors are strategic killers. They drive Community Fundraising away from the very thing that can deliver. Without purpose there is nothing of substance and direction, just froth. So how easy is it to find the glowing compass of purpose? At the NSPCC we had one overwhelming, simple, clear and clarifying strategic purpose.

To end cruelty to children

We didn’t start with what we did. We started with why we were doing it. Inspiring and engaging a community to support that goal first then translated into money second. Since then and with many organisations I have worked in and for, I have challenged people to move these strategic killers to one side and embrace clarity, passion, inspiration and determination around purpose. Purpose at strategic level and for the cause and problem being solved and purpose for the function and its role and approach. Strategy can then follow purpose. It requires these 10 things to find that purpose and drive

  1. Leadership – top down, bottom up
  2. Courage – stop doing the wrong thing and embrace the right thing
  3. An ability to decide – once explored a decision
  4. Emotional energy that turns into a cold logic – one should lead to the other
  5. Authority (from somewhere) – consensus with authority through a good process to drive through
  6. Space to explore, and define – room to engage, innovate and go the journey
  7. A small but deliberate process – steps taken to find purpose systematically and deliberately
  8. Challenge and creativity – involving others, looking for grit, engaging external guidance and challenges
  9. Honesty and clarity – solve the problem by articulating the problem, then once clarity is found, test
  10. Will power – determination to succeed

This list is about the leadership skills needed to address the purpose challenge in Community Fundraising. Being able to identify it as a problem and to then engage a wider gang to be part of the solutions builds the cultural change that can transform teams. Steps taken with help from outside and with purpose can lead to the greatest outcome and clarity available to raise more money

Purpose

If you’d like to hear more about Good Leaders or upcoming Community Fundraising events, programmes, coaching, strategic reviews, creation sessions, team days and training or want to explore a Purpose workshop, click here to receive more information

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