I made it ten days. Ten working days laid on my back recovering from a slipped disc, and finally it hit me. I have run out of take away. I have run out of Netflix. I have indulged myself to the point of folly and if I don’t do something constructive soon, I may lose the power of intelligent thought.
We can all agree, sick leave sucks – that feeling that the days are passing with nothing but self-pity to fill them. So, looking for something to read that might wake up some brain cells, I picked up the nearest non-fiction book, Ogilvy on Advertising.
It’s been years since I read it, too many, in fact. I remember sitting at my desk on my first day, in my first fundraising job, daunted and wondering where to begin, when my manager dropped a head height stack of books on my desk with the words, ‘Start here’.
First Ogilvy, then Smith, Burnett, Bird. Suddenly I realised I had been given everything I needed to do my job well. They taught me the essential principles of DM. I took their words, and I used them to inspire people, and to raise money that would change lives right around the world.
At a time when our motives are being questioned, and the value of our work is being scrutinised, I take great comfort from these books. From re-reading and refreshing the principles we work by every day. And realising, we are not the first generation of fundraisers and we will not be the last.
So now, some homework;* re-read something that mattered to you. Go back to basics and ask yourself if they still ring true in your work. Remember why you became a fundraiser, and reclaim that inspiration.
And then pass those books on. I owe my career, and the pride I take in it, to that manager, and that book list. Learning is a great gift.
*Do your homework, Ogilvy on Advertising, chapter 2.
In the studio at Open, we spend hours and hours, followed by a well-needed tea and biscuit break, and then more hours, searching for the perfect image. Searching for the one that communicates the exact feeling we’re looking for, and which tells the story quickly and clearly. The specific qualities that set these images apart differ wildly, but they tend to fall into two distinct types.
The first, taken by professional photographers, are eye-wateringly beautiful. They can include powerful portraits – capturing facial expressions that instantly reveal the depths of human experience in a way that words cannot.
Or they might be steeped in pathos, depicting poignant moments in time. Technically, they’re always brilliant – and exactly what’s needed in outdoor and press, where we only have a moment to grab the attention of a potential donor.
At first glance, the second kind of image can appear underwhelming. Taken by everyday people, they’re simple shots of real lives and surroundings. Although not conventionally beautiful, they can be equally powerful. By knowing who’s behind the camera, you are immediately drawn into their world.
You experience the raw emotion, unfiltered by someone else’s lens. In the right setting, and with time to appreciate the context, these images can hit every bit as hard as those taken by the professionals.
So, which one do you think is the better image? I’d say both are just as memorable and thought provoking – and equally worth searching for.
The creative team here at Open has just moved into a new studio. In an attempt to shield our retinas from all the yellow (we love it really Richard!) we’ve created a wall of inspiring heroes. The picture below was my entry. Please be kind. I do words, not pictures.
It is, or should resemble, the first person on Mars – one of 70 people who’ve already made the commitment to go, willing to give up everything in the sole pursuit of knowledge.
These people are the ultimate innovators. Their discoveries will change the face of science from medicine and engineering to our understanding of ourselves. And the price they have put on all this learning is their lives – Mars is a one-way trip.
So often we look to our direct competitors for inspiration. The Mars team remind me to reach further, to push myself and try new things even if that’s scary. After all, the price of innovation for us, as fundraisers, is far more affordable, because in our worst-case scenario, we still learn. And knowing what doesn’t work can sometimes be as valuable to our fundraising as knowing what does.
Of course, like interplanetary travel, good innovation needs robust data behind it, but it also takes a little bravery.
So with the end of the financial year in sight, and plans for 2015 beginning to take shape, ask yourself: how far are you willing to go in pursuit of knowledge? How hard will you push to be ahead of the game? Do you have it in your budget to boldly go?
If you’re ready to take a leap, we’re with you all the way.