If there’s one quality that can determine your charity’s success in 2019, it’s focus. Time and resource are often short in charities, so focusing on the right things that will achieve your actual charitable objectives is crucial.
And there’s one big risk to that focus: trend-chasing.
Here are a few trends are either old hat, not worth the attention, or downright silly that might be a terrible use of your precious time.
Have you ever been in an internal meeting where someone said ‘We need to do our own ice bucket challenge’? If you work at a charity, I bet you have.
For the other 99.99% of charities, the success of viral campaigns lead to senior teams prioritising a short term, high risk approach to fundraising investment. A bit like buying a lottery ticket instead of learning how to earn money from an actual job every day.
I spoke to a charity once. They told me they’d been through a digital transformation programme. “I must say, I don’t feel very transformed”, they said. The project did lead to Yammer being launched – but nobody uses it.
The problem is not the work itself – it’s the inevitably dashed expectations. ‘Transformation’ implies magical, overnight change. So staff are bitterly disappointed when it actually takes two to three years.
Not meeting expectations like that erodes faith in digital as a solution to any kind of problem.
Cryptocurrency is still the talk of the town.
RNLI made waves by being the first charity to accept Bitcoin donations. But four years later in 2018, they only raised £16,000 in Bitcoin donations. And it seems only St Mungo’s, American Red Cross and Save the Children US have done it at all since then.
There are just three problems with Bitcoin.
First, energy consumption. One Bitcoin transaction could power the average American household for a day and a half.
Second, it’s the currency of choice for the dark web.
Third – and this is a big one – people who donate to charities just don’t use it.
Closely related to Bitcoin is blockchain. If you don’t know what Blockchain is, then you are far from alone.
80,000 blockchain projects have launched since its inception. Only 8% of those are still active today. On average, they last 1.22 years – just enough time to realise the benefits aren’t really there.
In fairness, blockchain can help reduce international bank transfer fees. Dorcas, a Dutch Christian poverty charity, used blockchain to transfer 5,000 euros to an international office they ran, making 1.15% saving compared to a traditional bank transfer. Helpful, but not exactly transformative.
Treat blockchain like I’m a Celebrity – Get Me Out of Here! By all means, watch it and follow it, but don’t spend precious work time on it till you identify how your charity might actually benefit from it.
Being agile involves, among other things, responding to the unpredictability of constructing software through iterative work sequences that are commonly known as sprints. Find out more at the Agile Alliance website.
Another charity I spoke to recently talked about how someone had tried to introduce an ‘agile’ approach in their charity, but quickly came unstuck when it was applied in other teams. Email schedules still had to be adhered to, and data selections still took six weeks.
‘Agile’ is primarily a software development methodology that requires a particular values, principles and outputs. So trying to import those values and bolt the wrong output on to organisations that aren’t ready is doomed to fail.
Be responsive and adapt to unexpected changes in your work. But don’t spend precious time importing agile wholesale when it’s a square peg for a round hole.