We need to talk about failure

It’s just over a month until the Institute of Fundraising’s Fundraising Convention and I for one am getting really excited! As an official blogger this year, I’ve been keeping an eye out for the sessions that I want to attend and the Failure Swop Shop is high on my list.

We don’t talk enough about failure

I’ve said this many times before, particularly in my column for Third Sector, that we don’t talk about failure enough. The recent State of the Sector report by think tank NPC brought this home even more. There is a major reluctance to take risks and potentially fail but the risk of never progressing is even more damaging. There was a quote in the digital chapter of the report that really stood out for me:


How can we ever achieve excellence – fundraising or otherwise – if we just do what we’ve always done? If we never push the boundaries? If we never take risks? One common theme emerging from every report produced this year (and there have been a few) is that if the sector doesn’t embrace digital – and understand what it means and its potential – it will get left behind. We cannot let this happen.

So I do hope that those speaking in the Failure Swop Shop will be honest and candid in their Fundraising Convention session – it is Chatham House rules after all – because I feel it’s so important to normalise failure. If you can learn from your failure and progress then have you actually failed?

Another session I am looking forward to is Digital. Are we doing it wrong? In this session, Reuben Turner and Pete Grant from GOOD Agency will be challenging the view that digital is just about convenience. They will be sharing examples where digital is used to build meaning, emotion and belief. Excellent. I loved being challenged and I hope this session will make me come away with a different view. If you work in digital and you’re going to Convention, this is a session you won’t want to miss.

Join me and the fundraising community at the UK’s biggest event for fundraisers!

Charity Governance Awards 2017

Congratulations to all the winners of the Charity Governance Awards!

All seven winners will share in the £35,000 prize pot, each winning a £5,000 unrestricted grant.

Asthma UK was named the first recipient of the new ‘Embracing Digital’ award for transforming the charity with their bold digital strategy including a new ‘personalised’ website, plus funding for digital health research projects and smartphone apps. Just nine months after launch, the charity reached over half a million more people, inspiring 33% of users to see their doctor or call Asthma UK’s helpline.

Asthma UK, Charity Governance Awards 17 (photo-Kate Darkins)

As a trustee of the Small Charities Coalition, I’m delighted that these awards also recognise the work and achievements of small charities.

Michael Howell, Chair of the Trusteeship Committee at the award organisers The Clothworkers’ Company, said:

“Highly-skilled trustees, diverse boards and their innovative use of digital technology are all areas that the House of Lords Select Committee on Charities has recommended as a focus for the sector. Therefore, we are delighted that our winners provide real-life examples of how that can be achieved. I encourage charities to download our free e-book which is full of inspiring stories from these superb shortlisted charities – including, of course, our winners! I hope this will provide inspiration for new journeys towards great governance.”

Download the free e-book here.

The winners and runners-up

Board diversity and Inclusivity

  • Winner – Voluntary Arts
  • Runners-up – George House Trust; MindOut

Embracing Digital

  • Winner – Asthma UK
  • Runners-up – Raise the Roof Kenya; Royal Opera House

Embracing opportunity and harnessing risk

  • Winner – Winner: Preston Road Women’s Centre
  • Runners-up – Body & Soul; Changing Futures North East

Improving impact – charities with 3 staff or fewer

  • Winner – St Peter’s Community Wellbeing Projects
  • Runners-up – Green’s Windmill Trust; The INSPIRE Foundation

Improving impact – charities with 4-25 paid staff

  • Winner – Prisoner’s Education Trust (PET)
  • Runners-up – FutureVersity (Tower Hamlets Summer Education); Key4Life

Improving impact – charities with 26+ paid staff

  • Winner – Step by Step
  • Runners-up – St John of Jerusalem Eye Hospital; Treloar Trust

Managing turnaround

  • Winner – Off The Record (Bristol)
  • Runners-up – Dementia UK; Kentish Town City Farm