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Five TED talks every fundraiser should watch

Five TED talks every fundraiser should watch

As a fundraiser I have found TED talks a brilliant source of motivation and useful content, and TED have created a list of talks focused on philanthropy.

For this blog post, however, I have chosen to focus on talks from other categories which have useful applications in the world of fundraising. Here are five of my favourites:

1. How to find work you love – Scott Dinsmore

“Everything was impossible until somebody did it. You can either hang around the people who tell you it can’t be done and tell you’re stupid for trying or surround yourself with the people who inspire possibility.”

Entrepreneur Scott Dinsmore left a Fortune 500 company to set up Live Your Legend, helping others do work they love. Scott talks us through a three step passionate work framework to find the work “you can’t not do”. For fundraisers who are struggling to find which role or organisation would be the best fit this is sage advice. Scott argues that leaving your comfort zone and changing your environment increases results. A motivational lesson for all fundraisers.


2. Forget the pecking order at work – Margaret Heffernan

“Helpfulness means I don’t have to know everything, I just have to work among people who are good at getting and giving help.”

Margaret Heffernan (a business leader) explains “the super chicken model” which places a higher value on star employees. She then presents evidence that successful teams exist due to social cohesion.

As fundraisers we are often competitive, target driven and can end up working in silos. Margaret offers an intelligent argument for greater collaboration and building internal relationships. This talk is an important reminder that fundraisers should aspire to be team players not (just) star performers!


3. Grit – Angela Lee Duckworth

“Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint”.

As a maths teacher, Angela Lee Duckworth noticed intelligence wasn’t always the key indicator for success. She describes her theory “Grit”, a combination of passion and perseverance.

As fundraisers we need to have “grit” in bucket loads to be successful in a competitive landscape! This talk is testimony to the power of having a growth mind set and accepting failure as temporary state. Angela has also written an excellent book with the same title which I highly recommend.

4. 10 ways to have a better conversation – Celeste Headlee


“You don’t need to take that moment to prove how amazing you are or how much you’ve suffered. Somebody asked Stephen Hawking once what his IQ was, and he said, “I have no idea. People who brag about their IQs are losers.”

Radio Host Celeste Headlee argues holding good conversations is an underrated skill. She shares 10 rules for better conversations, ranging from the basic e.g. Try not to repeat yourself, to those that are less obvious e.g. Don’t equate your experience with theirs.

As fundraisers it is important to remember that people give to people. Better conversations will in turn lead to better fundraising. Celeste places huge importance on listening, a key take home message for fundraisers. Most of us can talk the talk but how many of us can really say we are experts at listening?


5. The surprising habits of original thinkers – Adam Grant

“Originals feel fear, too. They’re afraid of failing, but what sets them apart from the rest of us is that they’re even more afraid of failing to try. They know you can fail by starting a business that goes bankrupt or by failing to start a business at all.”

Organisational psychologist Adam Grant studies “originals”, non-conformists who come up with new ideas and take action. Adam demonstrates how procrastination, doubt and failure are all surprising habits of Originals (and I would these are also familiar to many fundraisers!). Adam distinguishes between the different responses to these habits and the likely outcomes.

This talk encourages us to not be afraid to challenge the status quo. This is a vital recommendation for fundraisers if our organisations are to continue to improve and grow.


Joelle Fitch is a Corporate Fundraiser at the British Lung Foundation. You can find her tweeting about fundraising (alongside the occasional political rant and dog gif!) at @JoelleFitch

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