Curiosity is a bad thing. Lessons on fundraising success
‘Curiousity killed the cat.’
That phrase has always bugged me, as it suggests that having an enquiring mind is a bad thing? Really?!
It’s usually said to children when adults don’t want to (or more likely, can’t) answer their questions and it creates the sense that curiosity and asking questions is a bad thing. After all, it might kill you, right?!
Then of course, you get to school and the opposite applies. Ask questions, don’t take things as read, expand your mind. And we wonder why kids find adults confusing!
(I could write a whole post on the things that we say to children that are both meaningless and confusing but I won’t – instead, I’ll leave it to Billy Connolly, who explains it far better than I could – and is much funnier than me!)
Curiosity increases the power of our minds
I recently heard someone say that you need to do something for 28 days before it becomes a habit (there is some dispute as to whether it’s 21, 28 or 66 days). The point is that, apparently, if we do something often enough, our brain realises it’s a routine and then programmes us to just ‘do it’ thereby freeing up the parts of the mind that have been processing the task up until then.
I’m no neuroscientist so that’s about as detailed as I’m going to get with this theme but suffice to say that the brain is pretty amazing and wants to make sure those synapses are popping (or whatever it is synapses do) without wasting energy on the mundane.
The more curious we are, the more we read new subjects or get out of our comfort zones, the more we increase our cognitive skills. We only have to look to teaching practice and the psychological of learning to show how children learn by being curious.
‘Fascinating Heather but what does it have to do with me?’
OK, I’ll get to the point.
When was the last time you got really curious in terms of your work?
I touched briefly on this in a previous post but to build on this theme, do you regularly speak with people who work in different fields to you?
I’m not talking about chatting (or moaning) to friends and family but more about taking the opportunity to have focused discussions around your charity’s goals or problems, sharing these with a different audience with the aim of not just getting solutions, but getting a different perspective on your problems, challenges and goals too?
Start with your board. This is where a supportive and diverse board is a lifeline for a charity, as they work in different sectors and each bring a different view with them, helping you to challenge ideas and thinking within your sector.
But what if you don’t have an engaged, challenging board? What if they all come with a similar perspective or backgrounds?
Network. I’ve worked with many charities that have boards made up of people who all come from the same or similar fields. If yours is like that, you need to get out there and speak to other people from different charities. I’d even suggest going further and speaking with people outside the charity sector.
Now, to be clear I’m not advocating the ‘charities need to operate like businesses’ approach but there are definitely lessons that the charity sector can learn from businesses – and vice versa.
On a practical level, I’d suggest starting out by looking for local chambers of commerce/trade or local business networking groups in your area. Some of these are expensive to join so shop around and make sure you look at all of your options. Don’t go along with an agenda of ‘finding a potential sponsor or donor’ (I’ve been at networking groups where the charity rep has been there for that purpose) but instead, go along as an equal party. After all, just because you don’t exist to turn a profit, doesn’t mean you don’t operate in a business-like way ie with professional standards and a strategic approach.
Learn about different aspects of the business and charity world.
Read different publications to get another perspective. I’m not talking about on a personal level because I suspect you do that already – but in terms of your charity, do you tend to stick to reading certain publications? If so, try to read more broadly around your subject, perhaps starting with reading about small businesses or social enterprises. I personally have one or two publications that are my ‘preferred reads’ but I try to make sure I read others too.
This is where the internet and social media really come into play, as I subscribe to Feedly – so don’t have to spend hours trawling through the internet – and get news, views and opinion pieces on fundraising, charities, governance, business, marketing, social media, coaching – the list is endless. New views and different writing styles all give me a different perspective on both the work that I do and the way I run my business.
Encourage your staff to get out of the comfort zone. You may not have a large team but get them out of the office, working with or speaking to people who work in different areas of your charity – or in different organisations altogether. Improve your charity’s efficiency by cultivating curiosity in your team to encourage them to ask ‘why are we doing it this way? How can we do it better?’ by learning lessons from others.
“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.”
I know many of you do these things already but the point is not just to look at different perspectives but to ask how you could apply them to your charity.
Taking the time to do this can seem like a luxury but being more curious can all help your charity to work smarter not harder.
Curiosity may have killed the cat but it might just re-invigorate your charity.