10 things fundraisers could learn from Star Wars

Howard Lake | 9 November 2015 | Blogs

“A long time ago, in a charity not so far away…”

With the new Star Wars movie tantalisingly close and excitement growing around the release I was recently challenged to write a blog about what fundraisers could learn from the films. I’m aware I’m light-years late to this party – Agents of Good have done a whole series of Star Wars inspired blogs, and if you are not following @FundraisingYoda you are missing out. So, instead, this blog is a prequel to the others…

1. Keep your Friends Close

Throughout the films, the various characters put themselves on the line to help each other. The strength of their relationships meant they were willing to go the extra mile.

As fundraisers, we always talk about the importance of building and maintaining relationships with supporters. We know that having a genuine, personal connection between the donor and the cause is a key driver of greater Life Time Value. However, engaged supporters are also the ones that can help you when your cause is in trouble.

This help doesn’t just come in the form of financial support and, while they may not put their lives on the line to help you blow up a spaceship, these supporters can come to your rescue in other ways. This could include offering advice, giving in-kind support or advocating for your cause in the face of enemy onslaught.

2. You need to have a plan

Blowing up the Death Star and fundraising have at least one thing in common – you need to have a strategy in place before you can begin. For fundraising (and probably for blowing up the Death Star, although =mc has less experience in this area) this should include a SWOT and PEST analysis. This will give you a clear understanding of what the rules of the game are, what league you are in, and how strong your team is.

You also need to decide what is the best structure for your organisation and team – is this something you have the expertise to do in-house, or do you need additional help?

3. It’s a Team Game

The central cast of Star Wars was noted for its diversity (questionable family relationships aside). As with taking on the Dark Side, fundraising is a team activity. You need to identify what skills you need in your team to achieve your fundraising strategy and invest in ensuring they have the competencies required.

(As Yoda rightly says, “Already know you that which you need.”)

You also need to make sure your Senior Management Team and Trustees/Board/Intergalactic Senate are engaged. Be clear about what is expected of them – whether that is acting as ambassadors, making introductions to their networks or donating in their own right. Ensure you have appropriate lines of communication and a framework for reporting internally, with information passing both ways. (Find out more about =mc’s Leadership Programme.)

4. Attack of the Clones

Star Wars Stormtroopers

In 1976, when negotiating his contract to direct the first Star Wars film, George Lucas reportedly turned down a 300% pay rise. Instead, he asked to retain the merchandising rights, as well as the rights to any sequels. At the time, this seemed a fantastic deal for Fox – they had previously had their fingers burnt with merchandising and there was no guarantee the film would be a success.

Jump forward to today and that decision has earned George Lucas an estimated $7 billion.

At a time when organisations are looking to diversify their income streams, a key skill is understanding the assets at your disposal and how they could be commercialised. Ansoff’s Matrix is a useful tool for considering your offering and your audiences. Similarly, if you are developing an earned income these Seven Key Considerations provide a useful framework.

So there we go – 10 things I think we can learn from Star Wars…and all without mentioning “The Force”. However, I’m sure there are many more, so join in the discussion – what other lessons do you think we can learn from Star Wars?
David Burgess – Fundraising Consultant, The Management Centre (=mc). (@davidburgessmc).

David is now at Apollo Fundraising.

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