Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Do you sit on your heels or step on the gas?

Well which do you tend to do? I was reflecting yesterday that doing nothing, if done as a considered action is often the best management activity you can indulge in, as long as you're sure that is the right thing to do. There's often an imperative to do something and it can be a devastating course of action. Mindfulness is becoming an overused term but when applied to reflection and quiet consideration can be extraordinarily powerful.

The Quakers, or the Society of Friends, are an interesting bunch of people. They’ve been hugely influential in social change for the better and the development of charities. They do it silently - you can sit in a meeting for an hour in silence sometimes. They also have a great need to ensure that everyone is heard even if there remains disagreement after discussion has ended (or time is called). There's a great technique they use, very effectively, that I commend if you have to take the minutes or record the actions to be done.

In line with the belief that silence allows a space for reflection, the minute taker calls for silence when the discussion is over (or time is called) and then has the time and opportunity to compose something that genuinely reflects what the meeting has decided, or not, and then reads it back to those present. This allows everyone to agree the mood of the meeting. They may not agree with the decision but have to accept the view of the meeting. It makes for a very slow decision making process but it is very hard to change a course once agreed. As was commented recently on Radio 4 "Ah yes Quakers, very slow to act, but impossible to stop!"

Their attitude to will writing is very much in line with this philosophy. The act of making a will is commended strongly to all. It means you are acting responsibly and thoughtfully. There is no pressure to write your favourite causes into your will but there is a steadfast suggestion that to do so is to continue to act responsibly for the benefit of society and to make the world a better place. So many charities suggest that a legacy will help them but forget that the vision is usually about the bigger picture and a better world.

Incidentally and in my view interestingly, whilst generally seen as a Christian Society there is no creed or set of beliefs. Many Quakers regard themselves as agnostic or even atheist. They do all subscribe however to the five agreed values or testimonies of: peace, honesty, equality, simplicity and sustainability. What's not to like? They're all stem from a mindful point of view!

Monday, 12 January 2015

Carpe Diem

You might have noticed that I've been banging on about death quite a lot lately, though in relation to fundraising and giving, with very good reason.

Many charities pussy foot around the D word and even if they do get round to asking, ever so humbly, for a legacy - tend to do it in an unstructured, ad hoc, sort of way. Mind you asking, is a lot better than not asking! Look at the differences in Legacy Income for Shelter compared to Crisis. Both formed around the same time for similar issues about homelessness. Shelter have asked consistently for legacies, Crisis haven't. Result Shelter's legacy income is 10 times that of Crisis.A strategy is vital to plan the right approach.

Yet there's always a more urgent bit of work to be done isn't there? That'usually the answer I get when I ask why a charity doesn't have a coherent approach to asking for legacy gifts. Well I've got news for you. The fact is you sometimes have to JFDI (just effing do it) and the new year is a great time to "seize the day".

Start to ask some of your long standing supporters if they've made a charitable will and why the have or haven't remembered you. You'll be amazed by some of the insights you gain and which can help you refine your legacy vision. (You've got to have a vision). You're not asking for a gift, yet, but do it now because there are people dying who will never die again!

As George Smith put it, "it's the last great fundraising opportunity". Stephen Pidgeon is even writing a book, "Love your donors to death!" Next time I'll tell you about the Society of Friends, better known as the Quakers. Even though they do it silently, there is a lot we can learn from their approach to wills and will writing.

Friday, 2 January 2015

2015 and still dying to give

The New Year tends to get us reflecting on the past year, decade, century and so on. 2015 promises, I believe, some interesting anniversaries and reflections. 800 years since the Magna Carta, 70 years since the end of the second world war and 50 years since the death of Winston Churchill.

I was talking to an old friend about the death of my wife in August 2014 and she told me a sad story of a mutual friend who, in November, was taken to hospital suffering from severe chest pains. It transpired the next day after tests, that he had experienced an Angina attack. Unfortunately, during the night, his wife suffered a massive stroke - probably brought on by anxiety over his admission - and was already brain dead. It brought it home to me that you can never, ever, know what is just around the corner.

The New Year then? A time not simply for a resolution but positive action. Go and make (or update) your charitable will. We know the statistics, from Richard Radcliffe. You will live longer! On average four years more than someone who has made a will without any charitable bequests. However the biggest benefit is that you can talk knowledgeably and with authority about the process and how life affirming it is to make a will remembering your own favourite charities. Try it and see.

My wife listed four causes, all really close to her heart and I shall, in the fullness of time, experience great joy in fulfilling those bequests.