I am off to Borneo to build some capacity. Not any old capacity you understand, but some of the seriously sustainable stuff. And I’m a tad scared. Not just because I get intimidated by jargon, but because I’m doing something I have too often merely exhorted others to do – getting outside my comfort zone. It’s easy to stand at the front of a Master Class in the cosy environs of a conference centre, and attempt to inspire people to be creative. It’s quite another to quit a secure job with a well-regarded consultancy in the middle of economic Armageddon. From ‘THINK’ to ‘do’, or from ‘THINK’ to ‘deep do-do’? Time will tell…
So I’m scared, but verrily throbbing with an excitement that has grown with each new vaccination. I love raising money. I take delight in producing inspiring drtv ads, banner ads, and even the odd and much maligned direct mail pack (remember those?). But there’s nowt like getting to the sharp end to re-charge my creative batteries. So I leapt at the chance when I heard that Borneo Orangutan Survival needed a volunteer to work at their project in Samboja. The work I’ll be doing there won’t be fundraising or campaigning or marketing. I’ll be rolling up my sleeves to help improve the lives of orangutans and sun bears. With orangutans heading for extinction in less than a decade, there’s an urgency to the work that cannot be over-estimated. I’ve already wept just looking at photos of our close cousins beaten and mutilated as rogue loggers destroy their ancient rainforest home. As a small contribution to staving off extinction I’ll be helping the dedicated people there to put in place the systems and processes to help these wonderful animals survive and thrive.
I know that whatever I encounter will make me a better fundraiser, a better campaigner, a better communicator. I believe fervently that every fundraiser needs time away from their desk. Time to get close to their cause. To live, breathe and feel precisely why what we do is such a privilege. For just as donors aren’t inspired by dull communications, so fundraisers can’t be inspired by dull jobs. Time at the sharp end is vital. It’s moving. It can be traumatic. But it’s surely life-enhancing. Above all, for anyone involved in fundraising, it’s where you find the best stories, images footage.
So if you work for an agency, beg and badger your clients to let you get close to what they do. And if you are a fundraiser or manage fundraisers, insist that you all get the chance to re-inspire yourselves by getting out there. You’ll get great stories, inspired people, and you’ll retain your best staff longer. We are all used to scrutinizing ROI figures, but how about trying to improve your Return On Inspiration?
I’d love to hear just what inspires you. What are the places, people, causes, donors who put a spring in your step? Let me know, and, technology permitting, I’ll be posting from Borneo on the stuff at the sharp end that stimulates me.