Last week I went on a trip to Oxford to watch four small charities pitch for funding at Oxford Gives (more about that later). I want to tell you about a few things that I reflected upon that evening.
What is your origin story?
Bathed in early evening May sunshine, the dreaming spires were looking… dreamy. And as I turned into Broad Street, I noticed this small sign.
— Richard Sved (@richardsved) May 17, 2018
I don’t suppose many people think about the “Ox” origins of Oxfam, but here they are. Their pioneering origins. A sense of place. These are the roots of a hugely important, influential organisation.
How do you talk about the early years of your organisation? If you were to plot the key events on a timeline, how would you do it? Here’s a good example from the National Literacy Trust:
- What has changed as result of your existence?
- What difference have you made?
- What would you put in your own timeline?
- What plaque would they put up about your organisation in 70 years’ time?
How would you use six minutes to pitch for your organisation?
So, yes. I was in Oxford to attend Oxford Gives. Do you know about the wonderful work of The Funding Network? Essentially, it’s a Dragon’s Den style crowdfunding event in which charities pitch to a room of potential donors. I’ve previously blogged about it here and here.
— The Funding Network (@FundingNetwork) May 17, 2018
Each pitcher had six minutes to convince the room that theirs was a cause to support. How did they do it so well? They all had the following elements:
- Gentle humour to get the audience on their side
- A personal passion for the cause
- A direct explanation and illustration of the need for their organisations’ work
- A simple follow-up of how they are meeting or resolving that need
- A clear call to action, both in financial and non-financial terms
And the best of them focused on impact. But what exactly is that?
Impact is about the change you make
And it was in Oxford, over 20 years ago, that I first knew that I wanted to work in charities. It was volunteering and then working for the charity KEEN, which provided sporting and recreational activities for children and young people with a wide variety of special needs that got me fired up. I’ve blogged about them before here: Doing the hokey cokey with Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
There was a particular moment I remember so clearly. I was talking to a founding trustee, whose two daughters both attended KEEN sessions. She said to me:
In our family, we talk about BK and AK. Before KEEN and After KEEN. That’s how much of a difference you’ve made.
The intervention of KEEN in her family’s lives was – quite literally – era defining.
What we need to be talking about when we talk about our charities is the change we make. This is what impact is.
So this is what I learned about impact in Oxford – last week, and last millennium.