Nailing the fundraising problem before the idea will raise more money.
Not long ago I had the privilege of being part of a creative session that led to one of the most successful fundraising campaigns in the UK in recent years.
Here’s why it was so successful.
If you want your creative to raise a lot more money, there’s one very simple thing you must do: nail the problem. But here’s a catch – it’s really, really hard. Without the right problem, all the bright ideas and clever creative in the world will be just that – clever. And clever won’t raise money.
What is creativity?
To understand how powerful creative works, it helps to understand what creativity is. While many argue that the key to creativity is ‘divergent thinking’ (the ability to come up with lots of solutions to a problem); the key to brilliant fundraising creative is nailing the right problem.
“Creativity may have to do less with solving problems than with finding the right problems to solve.” (Ghaemi, Nassir. A First-Rate Madness, p. 25).
Therefore, our job as fundraising creatives is to focus on the problem for as long as possible, until we find the right one. As simple as it sounds, it’s often very difficult, because humans are hard-wired to solve problems.
“Curiosity and the urge to solve problems are the emotional hallmarks of our species (…)” (Sagan, Carl. The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence, p. 81).
That means that we must suppress one of our core urges in order to develop the best possible fundraising creative.
How the RNLI re-launched
In 2019 the RNLI chose to re-launch their fundraising. They could easily have launched a we’re short of money appeal, like so many others. However, that’s only a short-term fix and the RNLI needed a long-term, sustainable and robust solution.
To find that long-term solution, the brilliant fundraising team at the RNLI came to a two-day co-creation session where the goal was to nail the idea for their upcoming appeal. But to nail the idea, we first had to spend a significant chunk of time focussing on the problem.
Of the 16 hours spent in that co-creative space, we spent 14 hours on finding the problem. A measly two hours was spent on the ideas. Because when you’ve nailed the problem, everything else flows so easily.
Finding the right problem
As an organisation you might have a plethora of problems that you’re trying to solve, but that’s far from enough. You need to find the right one. The right problem must be unique to your organisation. To get there, start off with as many problems as possible, figure out what problems you love solving, what problems you can become the best at solving and what would raise the most money.
Sometimes it can help to break down a problem into chunks. That’s exactly what the RNLI did. After 14 gruelling hours, the team at the RNLI had expressed their most important – and unique – problems:
· More people than ever need our help
· Too many are still dying
· And we don’t have enough money to rescue them all
In other words, the RNLI were facing the perfect storm.
The results speak for themselves: an immediate 138% increase in special appeals income.