The great menace to progress is not ignorance but the illusion of knowledge.
— Daniel Boorstin
It ain’t what you know that gets you into trouble, it’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.
— Mark Twain
On April 6th, Captain Tom Moore started walking in his backyard, with the intention of walking 100 laps to raise £ 1,000 for the NHS Charities Together. By April 30th, on his 100th birthday, he had raised £32 million (or $40 million) with donations continuing after his birthday. He has since been knighted.
But how on earth did he succeed without fundraisers and specifically fundraising consultants? (Same question about Marcus Rashford.)
Here are a few (Un)lessons from Captain Moore’s amazing feat as developed by Omar Mahmoud and Bernard Ross over a virtual cup of coffee.
(Don’t) Set an ambitious goal and stretch yourself to achieve it
Captain Tom exceeded his target by 32,000 thousand times. We guess that’s another record he broke.
Despite your great age Captain, you need to improve your forecasting skills. You can’t just say £1k and end up raising 32 million. This will raise some eyebrows.
(Don’t) Set a clear 5-year plan on how you are going to achieve your objectives
Make sure you have clear Objectives, Goals, Strategies and Measures. What were your strategies?
Captain Moore, with all respect to your military background we recommend a course in strategic planning.
(Don’t) Make sure you have the basics in place
That is, before anything, you need a strong agile and aligned organisation with fundraising, communication, and advocacy professionals, supported by teams of finance, accounting, research, human resources, procurement, etc.
Dear Captain Moore, did you really think you could raise one thousand pounds on your own?
(Don’t) Understand your audience
As you know, people are different especially in our fast-changing, generationally focused and polarized world. Did you do your population segmentation and targeting homework?
Sorry Captain, you can’t just go with the same simple message to everyone. Please arrange to attend an introductory course in Segmented Marketing.
(Don’t) Hire consultants, you can’t do it on your own
You need experts with a proven record of achievement and ideally experience across different sectors.
Captain Moore, with all due respect for everything you have done, what do you know about communication and fundraising? Please leave it to the specialists.
(Don’t) Tell your donors what impact their donation is going to have
Donors will only donate if they know that their contribution will have an impact. Make it clear and concrete.
Sir Tom, donors actually only vaguely know the money will go to ‘the NHS’ but don’t know for what; Staff pay? Equipment? Medicines? Please address this concern in your stewardship.
(Don’t) Tell your donors how their donation will be spent
How much of the money will go to the cause, to administration, to other fundraising campaigns, etc. Be transparent. Trust in charities is low and you need to explain about overhead.
Donors have no idea, and probably neither do you Captain Moore. Get some accountants in to help show your figures in a good light.
(Don’t) Tell a story
In the non-profit sector, you get people to act by telling them a story, with a proper narrative ark. Not just by telling them which institution to donate to. This applies to fundraising, communication and advocacy.
Captain Moore, you can’t just ask donors to give to the NHS. Where are the people and stories? (Ogh, and shouldn’t you be clear that the money isn’t actualy going to the NHS for medical care?)
(Don’t) Prepare a multi-media plan
In today’s information overload and low attention-span world, you need to have a clear channel/audience plan combining mass media, social media and a good mix of influencers and celebrities. A big launch event would help.
Captain Moore, again, we saw no evidence of strategic multi-channel thinking at all. All we saw were some random media references.
(Don’t) Make sure you have an integrated plan
Combine fundraising with communication, advocacy, and volunteering. This will maximize the impact of your message and people’s response to it and a bit of telly.
No integration Captain Moore? Just a message with a donation ask? Tut tut.
(Don’t) Apply science
How do you know your campaign will trigger the desired results? You need to use some of the neuroscience techniques to measure people’s reaction to your campaign, scientifically.
Captain you are 100…you need to book some traning quickly. Add to the list of training> Add to your personal development plan of strategic planning and marketing… neuro-fundraising.
So, what’s the message; to abandon all we know and fall into cynicism? Or, to dismiss Captain Moore’s case as an exception from which nothing can be learnt; after all we’re not Captain Moore!
The message is to keep an open mind, to realize that we (individuals and organizations) all have our hidden biases and invisible assumptions, and that context matters in space and time. Let’s use less the following statements “Of course. Everybody knows that. Always do X… Never Do Y…” and say more “I don’t know, but I can find out… It depends… I think so, but I am not sure… This idea doesn’t make sense, but let’s test it anyway. ”
Think about what you know in terms of probabilities, not certainties.
The four most important words in science are “We do not know.”
Bernard Ross, Director, =mc consulting and Omar Mahmoud, Chief of Market Knowledge, UNICEF International