Anybody who knows me in real life will agree that I’m not the tallest person around.
But let me take you back to a time when I was almost literally knee-high to a grasshopper. It was in my primary school days – a few decades ago now – and the game I used to love playing was Top Trumps. It’s simple: each card has some numerical data, and you can win your opponents’ cards if the value you have chosen from your card trumps the one on theirs.
Anyway, my big brother and I had an English football stars Top Trumps set, and pretty soon went about learning which cards were the strongest in the various categories. It was the ideal game for a couple of stats- and football-obsessed boys. We spent countless hours poring over them. I think maybe we were quite boring.
And so, nearly 40 years later, I still remember the Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Corrigan. He was the tallest in the pack, not-so-Average-Joe. I still remember his exact height – 6 foot 4 and a half inches – or 194cm in today’s money. To this little lad, that sounded ridiculous. Actually, that’s also pretty tall compared to this fully grown adult.
Now Joe was a useful card to have in your hand, because he was unbeatable on height, but as a goalkeeper, he was pretty vulnerable on Goals Scored. Goalies don’t score many, of course (although I seem to remember that Pat Jennings had scored one from his own box, but that’s another story).
Congratulations, dear reader, on getting this far. ‘Why is he telling me this?’ I hear you asking, somewhat exasperatedly.
Well, I hadn’t really thought about Top Trumps, or indeed big Joe, for many years, until my excellent colleague Helen Trenchard suggested using the format with a client in a workshop to discuss their fundraising strategy. It worked so well. Here’s what we did.
Helen’s idea was to use Top Trumps to appraise the various different fundraising methods that could be adopted by the charity.
For every possible income stream, we popped up on the wall a Top Trumps style worksheet, to enable everyone to assess and discuss each method, as well as how they might complement each other. The Top Trumps categories we drew up were based around key factors such as the scale of the opportunity, the lead time, resource implications, and conditions needed to thrive.
Here are some of the lessons, Big Joe style:
Big Joe can bring a quick win
With Joe Corrigan in my hand, I knew that if I was calling the shots, I could lead with his height and win the round. Easy points. Which funding streams can work for you similarly? Show that early success that can bring stakeholders round to your strategy, and of course bring in some early income?
Big Joe may not be in charge
As I mentioned earlier, Joe didn’t score any goals, of course. This meant that he was a little bit vulnerable if it was my brother’s turn to pick categories. Which income streams are harder to predict, or even feel like you’re in control of? Legacy fundraising springs to mind, of course. Like Joe, an important player in the team, but difficult to predict if it will win the day in each round (or financial year).
Big Joe needs team mates
All of which brings me to Joe’s most important lesson. It became clear to us pretty quickly that Joe alone wasn’t a strong hand. We needed someone who could bang some goals in, like Kevin Keegan, or who’d made lots of international appearances, like… Kevin Keegan. Where am I going with this? Ah yes, Kev was also pretty short, at 5 foot 7, which is why his German fans gave him the nickname Mächtig Maus, or ‘Mighty Mouse’. Anyway. You see he and Joe complemented each other? And as for fundraising, make sure you don’t rely on a single income stream, even if it brings you good money. You need your fundraising strategy to map out a diverse range of complementary income streams.
That’s the long and short of it.
And finally, just in case there’s anyone who didn’t believe me that goalkeeper Pat Jennings had scored from his own penalty area, and because every goal scored against Manchester Utd is a good one, here it is. Enjoy: