Are you sabotaging your own projects?

Seth Godin: Quieting the Lizard Brain from 99% on Vimeo.

You get a really good idea. That’s the first step. But we all get good ideas — how do we turn them into reality? That’s where Shipping comes in. That’s what Seth Godin calls it: getting it out the door. But, he says, our Lizard Brains conspire to keep us from shipping. Watch the whole drama from a 99 Percent conference held by Behance.

10 steps to starting a business

Here are 10 steps you need to take to get your business idea up and running– from evaluating your business idea and choosing a company name through to designing your business cards, developing a website and, finally, getting ready to launch.

1. Start-up business plan essentials: Testing your business idea

Field research is a key part of analysing your market and will help you build a successful business plan and brand. Seriously: a bit of good research (not just something that will make you feel good) is invaluable. You may gain an insight that might give your start-up an edge over existing competitors.

2. Choosing the right business structure

Sole trader, partnership, limited company or LLP? Check out at how to choose the right legal structure for your start-up. (Might be good to look at point 4 at the same time).

3. How to choose an accountant

Whoa, I hear you say. I can’t afford an accountant! Well, that is where you would be wrong: getting a good accountant on board early on will pay for itself. Seriously. They can advice on good ways of structuring your business, expenditure etc that could say you thousands at the end of the financial year.

Tips from Startups on how to pick the number cruncher that’s right for your small business. Me, I followed a word by mouth recommendation by a friend to pick my accountant.

4. Red tape checklist: What your small business needs to know

Well, they call it red tape. It is about business basics really. Be aware of your responsibilities when it comes to:

  • Tax law – See point 3
  • Intellectual property law – See point 2
  • Employment regs (if you have staff) – See point 2
  • Digital (or data) regs – See point 2
  • Insurance – See point 3

5. How to choose the perfect name for your business

Choosing the right start-up name is extremely important. But it is also challenging. A lot of businesses launch – only to find that they are infringing on the legal rights of another company. There is nothing worse than having to back track and fall back on plan B.

6. How to create a brand that properly represents your business

These days there are bots that can whip up a logo for you. Or some freelancer in India will do it for $5. It is up to you.

But consider this: will the bot or the freelancer in Bangalore (nice place, by the way) think like your potential customers do? You see, a brand is not just a logo: it also encapsulates your business idea, ethos, aspirations – and needs to reach out to your customers, and inspire them into action.

7. Applying for a Start Up Loan: What to expect

Looking to raise finance for your new business? Join the 30,000 plus Start Up Loan recipients today…

8. Need office space?

As with most small startups, I chose to work from home. Because I could. It obviously saves you a fortune in initial overheads. Bu tif you want to expand or your line of work needs to house equipment etc, eventually there will be a time, that you need to look at other options. So, what exactly do you need to consider when looking for the perfect premises?

9. How to save money on business software when starting out

Now I don’t know what kind of business you are planning on setting up, and there are an awful lot of apps out there. So specific advice, well, you probably know bets what specialist apps you need. But for core apps, I would really recommend setting up a google business platform, which not only gives you all the office apps you need, but synchs you with cloud space, and any other collaborators/team members in a virtual office environment, Wherever you are. And then there is data storage. Myself, I use Dropbox. It is invaluable in backing up all my files, allowing me to work anywhere with instant access to them and allows me to share and collaborate with selected teams.

10. Going to market

So, you’ve got your start-up all ready to go? Your market research (you did do some, didn’t you?) has told you who your customers are. You have a brand tailored at that market – so now you just need to talk to them. But what is your key message, h how do you reach them and how much will it all cost?  Oh, and before anything else, you need that website up and running as soon as.

Where to start?

Well, obviously here. Do drop me a line, and I can give you some no-obligation advice on getting your inspiring marketing communications started.

 

 

Your website is an investment, not an expense

Did you know that nearly 75% of nonprofits with a website designed their site in-house, used a website solution that was free, donated by a volunteer or a public agency of some sort?

Think about what this means. Three quarters of all websites in the charity sector are done on the cheap. It’s all about doing more with less. We’ve heard this expression in the not-for-profit world many times — we have to “do more with less.” It’s like the mantra of our entire sector right?

But I’m here to tell you that your nonprofit website is not an expense; it’s an investment. And when you make an investment, your focus should not be on what you’re spending as much as it should be on your ROI, or return on investment. In the commercial world, ROI is what every decision is really based on.

If I spend $100, what am I going to get back? That’s the question ROI is concerned about. Am I’m going to get $200 back? $300? Or even $101?

There’s a huge difference in mentality and approach to decision making when you’re focused on ROI as opposed to cost. I know nonprofit organisations that have spent literally £50,000 or more on their websites— and had a huge return on investment because their donations increased, their fundraising capacity grew and some of their significant expenses decreased.

I know other nonprofits that have spent £500 or less and ended up throwing their money away. In the end, all they had was basically an online brochure with next to no functionality or ways to engage with constituents.

With your website, it’s not about how much money you spend; it’s about the ROI on your expenditure. Keep in mind that your website sits right at the centre of your marketing universe. Every marketing move you make leads back to your website, and the same is true for people connected to your organisation, from constituents to board members to volunteers.

Your website is the one place where you cannot afford to do more with less.

This article was originally published on Firespring.org. 

Get the latest UK fundraising consent and data guidance

The Fundraising Regulator has today released it’s guidance titled Personal Information and Fundraising: Consent, Purpose and Transparency, aimed at helping charities better understand their responsibilities in relation to donor consent, data protection and legitimate interests.

The guidance has been published alongside six case studies, showing examples of charities at different stages in the process of achieving full data compliance who have reconsidered their approach to donor consent over the past 12 months.

An actions checklist and self-assessment toolkit has also been published to accompany the guidance, and help charities with the practical issues surrounding consent and personal data processing.

The Data Protection Act and its associated regulations apply to organisations across the UK. The purpose of this guidance is to:

  • help charities and fundraisers better understand their responsibilities in relation to data protection, donor consent and legitimate interests
  • reflect on their current practices and
  • feel confident in developing a direct marketing approach that takes full account of the rights and wishes of the individual

You can download the pdf of this guide, case studies and action check list + find out more details on their website.

What time should you send marketing emails? (infographic)

What time should you send marketing emails? That’s a constant question to which this infographic here might help give you an answer.

All charities great and small make use of emails as a cornerstone of their marketing activities, whether drumming up support for a new campaign or simply thanking valued donors for their contributions. But, similar to great comedy, timing is key.

Much like social media or shift workers, different people are active at different times and it’s vital to have an idea about the internet access habits of your key demographics to ensure the maximum chance of your latest communiques.

This infographic from HubSpot offers some invaluable insight into the the best day and time to aim for inboxes.

There may be trouble ahead…

It looks like charities are facing some immense challenges over the next few years. Commentators like Adrian Sargeant are predicting a £2 billion hole in charity income due to recommendations in the Etherington review, which is proposing changes on how charities can use donor data for fundraising.

But that’s not where the trouble stops. Let’s face it, the charity market is pretty crowded, with new charities popping up all the time. There are some 160,000 registered charitable organisations in the UK alone all vying for a relatively small pool of regular givers. Not that this makes challenging as it is. That pool of donors also gets targeted by the big fundraising events like Red Nose Day and Children in Need. For a bunch of nice people wanting to do good – competition is fierce.

In this crowded marketplace (after all, that is what it is) something will have to give. Will the bigger charities ‘eat up’ the smaller ones, similar to take-overs in the commercial world? Or will the smaller ones survive better as they appeal better to the next generation who prefer more direct engagement? After all, due to the scale of operations larger charities tend to  keep their supporter relationship at arm’s-length.

I suspect that size will not determine the survival chances of charities. People usually give to causes that are close to their hearts and that reflect their own, personal values in life. Which is why smaller, local charities (for example Sobell House) will continue to do well because of the local support they can tap into. As do those dealing with animal wellfare (Hearing Dogs for the Deaf). And, due to peopel’s personal experiences, health charities tend to benefit from generous donations (Cancer Research). Though some people also look at the bigger picture and like to support international development projects (Oxfam).

You could say that there is a charity for everybody. But… if you take a look a the list I mention above, and then google their specialist causes, you’ll find that for each one of them there are several charities doing pretty much the same thing or something similar. And that’s where things might get interesting. With increased competition for a dwindling pool of donors, will some of the weaker ones end up failing, as businesses would in the commercial world?

Talking about weaker charities failing , the last thing the charity sector needed was the collapse of Kids Company. It’s failure has revealed a sever lack of transparancy, accountability and professional management by some charities, adding another blow to donor confidence. It turns out that nearly a third of charities accounts filed with the Charity Commission are of ‘unacceptable quality’. With a tightening up of accounts requirements, this will probably mean Kids Company wont be the last failed charity we’ll be hearing about.

Not that there is a lack of other challenges to add to the list of challenges. Local government funding cuts could be a ‘silent killer’ for some small charities and leave them unable to compete with national organisations (though I’ll argue that people do like to support local causes). And then there are proposals to tighten up the definition of a charity shop, as well as new laws to tackle terrorism funding via charities, all of which is pretty confusing stuff, and confusing donors as to which charities are actually trustworthy and which aren’t. The result: a holding back on donations.

I could go on sounding a few more alarm bells. But there comes a point where it’s good to do a bit of a reality check.

Yes, “there may be trouble ahead…”, as the lyrics go, but we should also remember that the song goes on to say “let’s face the music and dance“.

Looking forward, I believe that all is possible. There are plenty of challenges ahead, but the best strategy is to face up to them. The focus will need to be on ‘upping the game’, to think smarter, and work on more integrated communications. This is the moment to make a big shift in how charities operate. Not-for-profits really need to start operating and thinking like businesses in the commercial world. Now surely is the time to rethink the sector’s communication strategy, and to invest in better marketing and donor recruitment.

Are you ready to face the music and dance?

If you would like to have a no-obligation talk about your organisation’s fundraising communications, you should give us a call on 0797 6012 820.

Why are you not upsetting more people?

This is a great TED talk by Seth Godin, who argues the Internet has ended mass marketing and revived a human social unit from the distant past: tribes. Founded on shared ideas and values, tribes give ordinary people the power to lead and make big change. He urges us to do so. It’s all about ‘upsetting’ people.

Seth defines why we need to talk to Tribes. More interestingly, he points out that if you try and talk to everybody, all you do is produce bland communications. To get noticed better these days, you first need to grab people’s attention. You need to ‘upset’ people. Because if you’re not upsetting anyone, you’re not changing the status quo. What do you think? Disrupt or conform?

“So three questions I’d offer you.

The first one is, who exactly are you upsetting? Because if you’re not upsetting anyone, you’re not changing the status quo.

The second question is, who are you connecting? Because for a lot of people, that’s what they’re in it for: the connections that are being made, one to the other.

And the third one is, who are you leading? Because focusing on that part of it — not the mechanics of what you’re building, but the who, and the leading part — is where change comes.

You don’t need permission from people to lead them. But in case you do, here it is: they’re waiting, we’re waiting for you to show us where to go next. So here is what leaders have in common.

The first thing is, they challenge the status quo. They challenge what’s currently there. The second thing is, they build a culture. A secret language, a seven-second handshake, a way of knowing that you’re in or out. They have curiosity. Curiosity about people in the tribe, curiosity about outsiders. They’re asking questions. They connect people to one another. Do you know what people want more than anything? They want to be missed. They want to be missed the day they don’t show up. They want to be missed when they’re gone.And tribe leaders can do that. It’s fascinating, because all tribe leaders have charisma, but you don’t need charisma to become a leader. Being a leader gives you charisma. If you look and study the leaders who have succeeded, that’s where charisma comes from — from the leading. Finally, they commit. They commit to the cause. They commit to the tribe. They commit to the people who are there.”

Most interestingly I wonder if this thinking is something that, perhaps unknowingly, Corbyn and his followers are living by. First focusing on the Corbynista tribe, hoping that their ideas will eventually spread, persuading other tribes to follow.

Cover photo credit goes to a wonderful photographer and a project we love: Before They Pass Away