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The elephant in the room

Howard Lake | 27 April 2008 | Blogs

So there it was – just at the right moment, an elephant in the room – literally.
We’d planned this for some time. Our legacy strategy was to be shared with a sceptical and nervous inner core of volunteers at our annual chairman’s day. It was only the second time a full legacy message had been given to this audience and given the sensitivity we were nervous ourselves at how it would be received. The first time was at the AGM, where a motion was placed generally promoting legacies as ‘a good thing’. The seeds had been sewn. In the time between we crafted our content and message by listening to what donors were telling us. We focused on the conversation and not the ask. We tested the right words. We wrote and rewrote. We had begun to find our approach. In time it all became clear what we were going to do and say but getting to say it meant pointing at the elephant in the room – legacies, wills, death, stuff like that. If we are ever to have a straight conversation we need to not only point but talk to it. So, in a moment of genius – our agency Whitewater suggested a simple approach for the meeting – we would put a real elephant in the room during the presentation. Obviously, health and safety, risk assessments and an absence of live available elephants meant we had to rely on a nameless staff member dressed in a hired suit. Nevertheless, we shared our stuff, we pointed at the elephant, everyone laughed and suddenly it all felt rather normal.