Time to hand over the microphone?

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This article was originally written by Clare Lucas and published on CharityConnect.

Importance of brand

Working at a charity, we all want (and are expected) to get our organisation’s name out there. Brand recognition is something every team benefits from, whether you’re bringing money in or trying to gain support for your latest campaign. Crucially, it allows you to reach new audiences and do more for the people you are there to support.

However, there are times where it is necessary, albeit not always easy, to put an individual cause above your brand. Why? Because the fact is, sometimes, you can help more by not being the face of the campaign but, instead, taking a backseat and providing the platform and guidance to get an individual or groups voice heard. Importantly, in doing so, you can help achieve real change.

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    Fundraising Officer - Student Christian Movement (£22-24,000, Birmingham)
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Handing over the microphone

We have been trying to do this more and more at Mencap. An example is our 2015 General election campaign, Hear my voice. The thrust of the campaign was for us to give people with a learning disability and their families the microphone, but not the script. We gave campaigners complete freedom to raise the issues that mattered to them (from benefits to bins), which weren’t always the issues that were priorities for us as an organisation. The result was a richer and more genuine form of engagement with local prospective MP’s. It also created a pool of more actively engaged campaigners who do not shy away from speaking their minds and holding decision makers to account.

We have also supported individuals or families petitions, lending our resources to help them get their message out there to as many people as possible in the hope of achieving the change they wanted to see. Whether it’s support with starting a petition, help navigating the press or bringing the right decision makers round a table. Importantly, we have seen lives transformed through these petitions; families reunited and long fought battles won. There is no greater feeling in a job than that.

The tricky bits

Campaigns truly fronted by individuals can gain the sort of large scale public, political and media support that most organisations dream of. But, if your organisation is in the background, you may not benefit directly from this. Convincing people that this is the right course of action can therefore be difficult; luckily, I’ve been very fortunate on this front.

The key is to step back and look at the bigger picture. What is your ultimate goal as an organisation? Is it your mission to bring about real and lasting change or is it to get more mentions of your organisation? Obviously, it’s great when you can do both, but this often isn’t the case.

Another challenge of this approach is deciding which causes you support in this manner. It is tricky! There will always be more causes that you could support than those that you can. Campaigns teams are often passion rich and capacity poor meaning you can’t help everyone, even though you wish you could. As a result, the sad fact is that there will always be a limit in how many people or groups you can help in this way. This makes deciding which causes to throw your support behind difficult, to say the least. Decisions will largely be reactive but it is also worthwhile having some form of protocol in place so you can explain your rationale, particularly for those who you are unable to support.

These challenges deserve serious consideration. However, I strongly believe that the benefits of handing over the microphone are worth the risks. This approach should be seen as an investment for the future. These are individuals and groups with shared aims and goals to your own, but who can say and do things differently. Although your organisation may miss out on the spotlight, they will ultimately be rewarded by the invigoration of grassroots activists and increased awareness amongst new audiences.

Want to join the conversation? Get started on CharityConnect today…

About Anna Bland

I am the Community Engagement Executive for CharityConnect; so chat to all you lovely charity people about our new community site. I am passionate about women’s rights, love documentaries and drink excessive amounts of tea!

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Related article

CharityConnect: the place to meet others making a difference

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With so many diverse and niche roles in the charity sector, conventional career advice isn’t always enough. Sometimes, what you really need is to connect with people who have been there before.

But the question is how do we get in touch with these people?

That’s where CharityConnect comes in! CharityConnect is the professional online community for the charity sector, helping to create a culture of collaboration. It is a central hub for all the information you need, helping you connect with people across the entire sector. Interested? Here are some simple methods that you can use to take advantage of CharityConnect, engage, learn, thrive and meet others who are making a difference.

Ask questions & find answers

There will come a time when you have a burning career question that needs to be answered. And what better way to learn than from other professionals who have overcome the same issues you’re currently tackling? On CharityConnect, you’re actively encouraged to participate in discussions, write posts that reflect your personal experiences and meet new people who have shared your struggles. The aim is to offer you valuable, relevant, advice to help you go above and beyond what is expected from you at work. Community and collaboration are at the heart of CharityConnect and we want you to discover those hidden gems within the sector. Because ultimately, we can do better together.

In short: Connecting with people means more than just ‘following’ them on social media. It’s about actively starting conversations, offering help when you can and creating a culture whereby sharing our experiences is second nature. Now you can start asking those all important questions on CharityConnect.

Interact with your peers

As obvious as it may sound, you should never forget that your colleagues are one of your greatest assets. As well as giving you an insight into their previous role, they will also be aware of the mission statement that you’re working towards and provide you with meaningful advice. CharityConnect allows you build new relationships and tap into your established community of charity professionals. Even when you’re trying to extend your network, don’t forget how valuable your colleagues are.

In short: The worst thing you can do is just follow someone and interact with them once. CharityConnect makes keeping in touch with people simple and easy. So start a simple discussion or ask someone for their advice because, when maintaining relationships, interaction is everything.

 

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Look for a mentor and get on their radar

We all have someone in our field that we admire. You follow their work, you can see that they are genuinely contributing to the industry and now you want to learn from them personally. While you’ll be able to interact, start discussions and follow professionals on CharityConnect, it’s not as simple asking for their advice. It’s important to make yourself appealing so they believe they’re investing time in someone who wants to progress in the sector. Stand out from the crowd by being proactive and starting conversations in CharityConnect groups. We created groups so that you can have specific and targeted discussions. This draws the attention of people who are particularly skilled in that area (or need advice) so that you can begin building relationships with the right people. You’ll be able to hear all of the latest industry news and offer your unique perspective.

In short: Don’t just expect a mentor to say yes because you’re interested in their work. Prove to them that you have something to offer by being a constant and active member of the industry community.

Discover industry influencers

With so many changes happening in the sector every year, it’s so important to be kept up-to-date. By keeping up with the most influential people, you will have a much better idea of the direction that your particular area is heading in, the road bumps to look out for and productive ways to manage the most difficult situations. With this, you’ll benefit from the experience of those who have not just been through it, but triumphed. So be especially vigilant when you’re online!

In short: Keep an eye on influencers and stay in tune with what’s happening in the sector. Their experience is priceless, easy to find and instrumental in your career!

Speaking to people directly and starting a sincere conversation can be just as, if not more, beneficial as any video you watch or book that you read. CharityConnect is here to open the door that, otherwise, might be closed. We want to ensure that everyone has access to the information that they need to have a budding career. And a huge part of that is learning from others who have been there before.

So, if you’re looking for a way to connect with other charity professionals, learn and create a future of collaboration, CharityConnect is the place for you. Register your interest today to start building a better connected and informed sector.

About Anna Bland

I am the Community Engagement Executive for CharityConnect; so chat to all you lovely charity people about our new community site. I am passionate about women’s rights, love documentaries and drink excessive amounts of tea!

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