Friday, 28 September 2012

Kony 2012

Bit of a discussion to finish off Friday.

The above video is probably rather familiar to most of you. It went viral in March this year to great applause, controversy and questioning.

Regardless of what you thought of it on an ethical level, I doubt there is a charity or NGO that wasn't left scratching its head and wondering how they could get that level of media exposure for their own cause.

When the 30-minute Kony 2012 video went live on YouTube on March 5 2012 no one expected it would receive more than 110 million hits, least of all Invisible Children as Ben Keesey, its CEO, openly admits, ‘Our stated goal and we thought it was ambitious was to get 500,000 views of the video online by May 1st. Our most popular films previously on YouTube were in the 200,000-300,000 view count range.’ In the first 72 hours Kony 2012 got 43 million hits. It reached 100 million views on YouTube faster than any video in history. This level of mobilisation is unprecedented.

Well, six months on, The International Broadcasting Trust has released a report:

There's a very interesting page on its reception in Uganda. Though I'm left a little confused by the Key Lesson: 'allow for nuance and complexity' and the Future of Online Campaigning: 'don't overwhelm people with too much material'.

Obviously a delicate balance.

Tom Baker has blogged a much more succinct overview:

Which clearly outlines the key media strategy for any organisation wishing to achieve this kind of viral success.

However, as noted by one commenter, Lucy, the measure of success here has been in how far-reaching the video has been, rather than the change it has effected in Uganda. Worth considering this when working out how to monitor and evaluate your media campaign. What will you be measuring its success on?

What are your thoughts on what we might learn from Kony 2012?

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Online Funding Directories

(Images courtesy of Images_of_Money)

I have mentioned a couple of online UK funding databases in the past: GRANTnet and Funding Central.

Now I'd like to introduce:

It lists all the UK's online funding databases, where to find them, and what they cost to access. Quite a number of free ones on there.


Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Stats Packages

(Image courtesy of :: Wendy ::)

Interesting discussion on LinkedIn recently regarding statistics packages and whether SPSS was worth investing in.

My personal grudge against SPSS is accessibility. Especially when working at grass-roots level in countries with minimal resources. There's sometimes a trend towards stipulating SPSS on job roles, when what employers actually mean is 'ability to run statistics and present them coherently.' Neither of which specifically requires SPSS or the hefty financial outlay that goes with that.

It may not be trendy, but I'm an advocate of Excel. It even stretches to a two-tailed T-test. It's relatively easy to learn, especially in comparison with SPSS, and it's used in offices around the world. Nobody wants to shell out for yet another specialist software package if they can avoid it.

So, for basic statistical analysis, I feel Excel has some advantages.

However, Jim McDonald did post this extremely useful Wiki link:

It lists the software makers, how much the packages cost, and what they can do.

Hopefully, if you do decide to part from Excel, you'll be able to find what you need in there.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Effects of Social Media

Yesterday, I saw this infographic listing statistics about Social Media.

Find the original at initi8 Marketing.

The last box in the middle row caused me to stop: "It takes 5 days for the heart to recover its natural variable heart rate after being cut off from e-mail."

Not a terribly well-worded infographic. I assumed that meant the shock of being unable to access e-mail caused the heart rate to rise. Sceptical about this, I did a little delving and discovered the following wordily titled article:

  • Study followed 13 volunteers who gave up email for five days
  • Heart stress-rates dropped, while productivity soared as users spent less time 'window switching'
  • 'People became less stressed after being away from email'
Scientists who attached heart rate monitors to office workers found they remained in a state of 'high alert' throughout the day if they had constant access to email.

So, heart rates are constantly up whilst accessing e-mail, rather than peaking at the fright of finding themselves cut off.

Perhaps the more interesting figures to know are that people perform more efficiently when working on tasks one at a time, rather than multi-tasking. The infographic points out that, thanks to social media, workers now find themselves interrupted far more than they would once have done. 

45% of workers surveyed felt they were expected to work on too many things at once, whilst 28% of the day is taken up reading e-mails (although that's also the figure quoted for 'dealing with interruptions' - are e-mails and interruptions synonymous in this case?).

There's an interesting blog which documents one worker's attempt to switch off from social media:

I began to debate the pros and cons of unfettered [internet] access. While I was constantly searching for ways to become more efficient at work, I was idling away my free time with trivial eBay pursuits and constant email monitoring. Could an online cleanse be in order?

Some interesting lessons at the bottom. One that I recognise from organisations I have worked with:

4. Not everything is urgent. Connectedness helps breed a constant sense of urgency. When you take some time “off,” you realize that many of those pressing items can, and will, wait.

Could your organisation benefit from this woman's experience?

Monday, 24 September 2012

Global Pay Scale

Ah, Monday. How quickly you seem to come around...

Let's start the week with an interesting exercise. The BBC recently posted a tool for checking your salary against the Global Pay Scale. Where in the world does your monthly income fall?

If you have trouble converting from dollars, or any other currency, check out and its universal currency converter.

Interesting to note that if you are aged 16-24 and claiming dole in the UK, you are receiving less than half the annual salary of the average worker in Tajikistan.

However, if you happened to be the Chief Executive of Action for Blind People, even on your 2003 salary, you would today be earning more than twice the average income of a Luxembourger employee, right at the top of the global pay scale.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Key Funding Priorities

(click to enlarge)

I've previously mentioned NCVO Funding Central which, along with GRANTnet, is a good database for finding funds in the UK.

Across the country there are certain areas that trusts and donors are particularly keen to support. When you perform a grant search, you are asked to explain which of these areas your project will work within. If you click on the picture above, you'll get a clearer list of the main funding priorities. Each priority includes sub themes but this gives you an idea of the important ones.

When you set up a charitable, not-for-profit, organisation, there is likely to come a point at which you will need to apply for funding in order to undertake projects.

As part of your charity start-up plan, it is worth checking that your charitable purpose meets at least one of the above funding priorities.

A quick exercise:

  1. Cut up the key funding priorities into individual strips of paper.
  2. Sort them into three piles: A) Areas your organisation is definitely involved in B) Areas you are definitely not involved in C) Areas you might touch on or branch into, but aren't your key purpose.
  3. Take pile A. If there is more than one funding area in it, prioritise by putting the most important at the top, and the least at the bottom.

This can be a helpful way of clarifying the charitable purpose of your organisation, within the key funding priorities laid out by donors. Try to be honest about what your intentions are. It may seem tempting to try to cover as many funding priorities as possible, but sticking to a maximum of 3-5 will ensure that you don't lose sight of what you are there to do.

Once you have your priorities, it's worth including them in your strategic plan, explaining exactly how you will work within those areas.

If you need a little extra help, I offer charity start-up support on my website.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Women's Education

Really nice video on access to education for women and girls. It's in two parts so keep watching to the end.

Equal opportunity in education is so important, it's the foundation of everything we go on to do next.

Ties in nicely with DFID's MDG 2011 video.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Social Investment Funding

(Image courtesy of Images_of_Money)
If you're interested in Social Enterprise, Community Interest Companies or any other type of set-up you'd expect to see in  Martin Price's book, you might find this very interesting.

The UK government has just published an exceedingly useful PDF:

It lists all the major funds out there at the moment for setting up such projects. 

This document sets out key initiatives across government to grow the social investment market and make it easier for social entrepreneurs to access capital. Social investment has the potential to support many thousands of social entrepreneurs in the UK to develop innovative and sustainable ways to tackle some of our most entrenched social problems. At the same time it can play a key role in creating jobs, bringing wealth into communities and helping to rebuild our economy.

There's also a short glossary of acronyms at the bottom.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Small Area Income

Following on from yesterday's post on the Global Competitiveness Index, here's a small tip for charities working in the UK.

In 2007/8 the UK's Office for National Statistics published the estimated average weekly household income for England and Wales.

This is available as an online map. If you follow that link and type in a post code or address within Britain, you will be able to see whether the area falls into the affluent or low-income bracket. If you happen to discover that you're running a project in the lowest income band (£0-520 per week) that is definitely something worth mentioning in future funding applications.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Global Competitiveness Index

Nice interactive map from the World Economic Forum (Twitter: @wef) showing the world's most, and least, competitive economies. If you hover your mouse over a country, it tells you its ordinal ranking in the world - for instance, the UK is currently the world's 8th most competitive economy.

You can also download a full report into the findings from that link.

The Global Benchmarking Network works with leading academics to ensure that the latest thinking and research on competitiveness are incorporated into its work. It collaborates with its network of more than 160 Partner Institutes to disseminate the findings of its research at national and regional levels. 

Ties in nicely with the World Trade Game.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

How Well Are Charities Governed

(Image courtesy of markus.perl)

In a recent article by Guardian VolSec Network titled: How well are large charities governed? the chairs and chief executives of the UK's top 500 charities came up with the following top drivers of performance within their  organisations:

  • Good team working
  • High quality board meetings
  • Having the right skills and experience
  • Focusing on strategic rather than operational matters
  • Openness and trust
  • Being a diverse group of people

On a scale of 1 (poor) to 7 (excellent) how would you rate the following within your organisation? :-

  1. Overall teamwork and sense of morale
  2. Productivity of your board meetings
  3. Levels of openness and trust within your organisation
  4. Diversity of your staff and board members

Those are the easy ones. What about:

  • How well the skills of your staff match the skills your organisation needs? (Have you conducted a recent gap analysis? Do you know which skills your organisation needs?)
  • How well is your strategic plan being implemented? (Do you have an up-to-date strategic plan?)

If your ratings are low on any of those questions, what action will you take to improve the situation?

Tuesday, 11 September 2012


Advertising for interns has grown in popularity within organisations over the years, both for local charities and INGOs. The UN have long advertised intern positions as a route into International Development.

It can seem like an attractive prospect: a skilled, long-term volunteer for your organisation.

This post is just a caution to consider your intern package carefully:

  1. What are you offering the intern in terms of remuneration and skills?
  2. How clearly are you advertising this role?

The Trade Union Congress (TUC) has recently published an online tool where interns can calculate the amount of work they've done for free. This also translates as the amount of wages they've missed out on.

This is not to say don't take on interns, just to think about it carefully. There has been a lot of media attention lately in the UK regarding dodgy apprenticeship schemes that equate to free labour. Unless you are very clear about what you are offering, and the tangible advantages this will result in for your interns, what seems like a nice idea may turn into a sour PR venture.

Monday, 10 September 2012


Image courtesy of Wolfgang Lonien

Morning Monday. What better way to start the week than talking about time off?

I recently joined The Guardian Voluntary Sector Network. They have canvassed VolSec workers' opinions on taking time off in lieu. This is where staff record any overtime and take those hours off at a later date.

You can find the full article here.

This week on the network nfpSynergy founder and experienced fundraiser, Joe Saxton, wrote that:

"Members of staff in charities, particularly those in senior positions, who aren't prepared to give their time above their contracted hours [...] should question why they are working for a charity." 

The article, which suggested that the amount of TOIL voluntary sector professionals accrue is problematic for the sector, has been controversial. Many of you have commented, emailed and taken part in our poll, and 86% of you voted that hard working professionals, from whatever sector, need a good work-life balance and are entitled to take time off in lieu.

Personally, I'm a huge believer in flexible working hours. If an organisation is being effectively run, the results should be apparent in its achievements. If people have a job, and that job is getting done, then does anybody need to stand over them whilst they do it?

Ideally, we'd all have manageable amounts of work to complete in a week and some flexibility, as independent working adults, as to how and when we go about doing that - knowing that there's a support network of fellow colleagues to help us overcome any obstacles.


In reality, I think the debate needs breaking down a little. From personal experience, I've seen many organisations struggling with overload. Too few staff, too few hours, or sometimes just poor planning. Whatever the particular reasons, one symptom of overload is often excessive TOIL.

Like most working tools, TOIL can be used for good or evil. 

GOOD TOIL: People are getting the work done, achieving their goals, out in the community. They work hard when deadlines loom, so they are entitled to take time back when it's convenient, or head home a little early to pick up their kids. This results in a flexible, productive working environment.

BAD TOIL: The pressure is on all the time, there are never enough hours or enough staff, and deadlines don't just loom - they tower. More hours might be worked, but that doesn't necessarily mean more is getting done. Staff build up TOIL like sick leave because they can't face spending any more time in the office.

I strongly advocate 'good TOIL'. However, if you're honest about your organisation, and you notice that bad TOIL is occurring, it's time for a strategic re-think. Start monitoring your working patterns and sort out your time management. Bad TOIL may be an indication of more endemic problems that are holding back achievement.

Friday, 7 September 2012

JustGiving Alternatives

(click to enlarge)

Very impressed by this post by Reason Digital: Ten UK Charity Fundraising Websites Compared

Most people are familiar with JustGiving because it was one of the first to come along. Once a charity is registered with the site, individuals can choose to do a community fundraising event (run, swim, throw themselves out of a plane) in the name of charity. Providing their chosen charity is registered with JustGiving, they can set up their event profile so that the money raised will go straight to that charity.

The two main considerations for charities are:

  1. How much does the site charge to register?
  2. How much commission does the site take from the funds raised?

Here, Reason Digital has done all the legwork for you. Check out the article link above to compare each company's performance and value for money.

I have noticed that some sites only let you join if you're a registered charity. If you notice any that allow community groups and small charities (not yet registered) to set up pages, please mention them in a comment below.

Thursday, 6 September 2012


One of the organisations that I work with recently mentioned this:

We're learning mail chimp and love it. We had a huge response to a recent email out with over £200 donated in a weekend! 

It claims to have a usership of two million people already:

MailChimp helps you design email newsletters, share them on social networks, integrate with services you already use, and track your results. It's like your own personal publishing platform. 

Worth climbing on board and making it part of your social media strategy, perhaps?

If you're using MailChimp already - leave a comment and let us know what you think of it.