The charity and fundraising foughts of Ian Atkinson

Monday, 23 November 2009

Hats off to Pioneers

There aren’t enough new ideas in fundraising. Or marketing.

Which is surprising, since there is an awful lot of industry going on, and lots of very bright people involved in that industry.

I have a particular interest in new ideas of course, especially in fundraising, since I’m the creative director of a fundraising-specialist agency. (Sorry about the repetition of ‘fundraising’ – I’m trying to improve my search optimisation.)

And through personal experience, I might humbly suggest that actually, there are loads of new ideas. It’s just that the vast majority of them never see the light of day.

It was Howard Aiken who said, “Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats.”

And I’m sure many of us will nod sagely to his aphorism: ideas are very delicate things, easily crushed by an unkind word or doubting mind. Nowadays, coming up with a new idea is much easier than protecting it and championing it resolutely enough, bloody-mindedly enough to see it through, and make the idea become a reality.

Which is why innocent’s Big Knit always makes me smile.

For one thing, it is a lovely idea. Lots of different styles of knitted hats, on the top of little smoothie bottles. I’ve got several in my drawer that I’ve had for a couple of years (the hats, not the smoothies – as we know, that fresh fruit with nothing added would have fermented and exploded by now).

But what really impresses me is knowing how hard the idea must have been to make reality. Even at innocent.

Anywhere else, I think it would have been more than hard. It would have been nigh on impossible. There would have been just too many naysayers, telling you it wouldn’t work, it would be too labour intensive, it wouldn’t be hygienic, it would be too fiddly for supermarkets to bother with etc etc etc.

But somehow, they persevered. They did it. And it’s grown year after year.

It’s simple but inventive. It makes you smile when you see it. And it raises over £250,000 a year to help elderly people in the UK keep warm over winter.

Although, small point, in innocent’s book, ‘a book about innocent’, they say that when it started, they ‘would donate 50p to Age Concern’ for every hat-wearing smoothie sold. This year, on their website, they say ‘for every behatted smoothie sold, innocent and Sainsbury’s will give 35p’.

I’m not sure where the 15p has gone. Maybe wool's got more expensive.

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