The most important investment most charities rarely make
Over the last few weeks, I’ve found more and more people asking me about the trends and changes that I see happening across their part of the sector. In particular, they want to know what others are doing, how they’re adapting, where they’re struggling and succeeding.
And of course, I’ve shared my general impressions as far as confidentiality allows, but my initial thoughts have been the same each time: “Haven’t you joined any of my webinars or group calls? Haven’t you joined anybody’s webinars? Do you not talk to your network? Do you not have a network?”
Most of my business clients spend a big portion of their time outside of their businesses. Networking, meeting, and collaborating, not just within their sector of industry, but in many other settings – learning about the shifting landscapes of customers, technologies and competition; sharing common challenges; listening to other perspectives; gaining inspiration and new ideas. The insights they return with are invaluable back at the ranch.
It may sound like a stereotype, but in my direct experience of both worlds, people in the charity sector are much more naturally inclined towards collaboration. And yet, in general, we do far, far less of it than our more competitive commercial counterparts.
Whether it’s because we’re dragged into so many sector bodies, stakeholder forums or internal meetings, I don’t know. Maybe the groups and events in the sector simply don’t facilitate that level of discourse or insight. Or perhaps we just rub each other up the wrong way. Whatever the reason, we seem far less inclined to invest either the time or the money in consciously looking beyond our formal organisations, associations, coalitions and personal friendship groups, to tap into the huge volume of insight, experience and ideas among a wider, more diverse set of peers.
It’s a picture that feels at odds with my earliest experiences of the sector. The first charity CEO I ever worked with, happened to be incredibly well networked, and he introduced me to a number of other leaders. Those connections have steadily built into the network I have today which, I guess, is why I’m the one answering the questions about “what’s happening”, rather than asking them.
But it’s also at odds with my most recent experiences. At the start of the pandemic I invited all those CEO connections to join a weekly “Covid Call” to help share problems and solutions through the crisis. I assumed it would run for a month and then we’d be done. Today’s call will be the 15th, and as many still join now as did in the first few weeks. The reason I’m finally moving them from weekly to monthly is not, as I’d anticipated, a lack of need or desire for that type of forum, but my own lack of capacity to keep doing them pro-bono at that frequency.
This unmet desire for higher levels of sharing and collaboration is the main reason I’m starting a monthly series of evening webinars, aimed at the full spectrum of people in the sector. Not just to provide you all with dazzling content (which is a given, of course) but to help bring people together, to break the ice, broaden the networks and build a forward-thinking, open-minded, collaborative community, for those of us who want to be part of one.
After pretty much every session I run, I usually get two or three requests from people asking if I can introduce them to someone else who was on the call. So far, not once has a requestee declined. So, have a look through the upcoming events below. They’re all free. Register for a couple. Sit in on them.
I guarantee the content on the day will be of value, but so might the contacts be as well.
Webinar – Making strategy agile: how to create a strategy that rapidly adapts to new learning and external change. 21st July 5pm to 6pm (no fee). In this free, interactive webinar, I will show how you can develop dynamic strategy models and consciously adopt a much more agile approach to strategic decision-making.
Webinar – Growing earned income: how charities can sell higher-value, more impactful solutions that accelerate their mission. 25th August 5pm to 6pm (no fee). I will share the principles, models and techniques of ethical selling: why it’s so important for charities, how it contrasts with the “hard sell”, and why it is far more effective in generating lasting relationships and highly profitable, sustainable income streams.
CEO Breakfast (CEOs only) – Models for Systems Change. 10th September 8:30-10:30am (no fee). Join CEOs from British Red Cross, Catch22 and others, in a highly interactive and uniquely insightful CEO-group seminar on the potential for visionary societal change.
Webinar – Beyond the limits of interventions: how charities can recognise and embrace practices and principles of systems change to achieve population-level impact. 15th September 5pm to 6pm (no fee). I will share the high-level models and mechanics that can inform and shape more aspirational and collaborative strategies for population-level outcomes.