© wildpixel / iStock
© wildpixel / iStock

I’ve been bombarded with articles recently about how ‘reframing’ something, like evaluation, and calling it ‘design-based’ will inspire new ways to track and do innovation. Really. I’m mean, really? This particular article went on to list evaluation as both a product and a service and tried to outline why this was a new way of looking at things. As a consultant running my own business, this kind of thinking is really obvious (I deal with evaluation as both a product and a service every day).

This is an example of what I’m coming to refer to as ‘too much framing’: that is when there is too much noise and judgement about what is right and good and we all end up casting ourselves in a sort of mold of someone else’s making. The pressure to appear to be successful and on-trend and innovative all the time is not being driven by actual need, analysis, data, etc. But rather by social media and the influencers on social media (including LinkedIn) who have a particular point of view to push. So we spend too much time trying to look like we fit the mold, and not enough time getting on with the job – ‘doing’ in other words.

So far you might be reading this, thinking: what is he on about? Well this all arose when a colleague and I were talking about the effort involved in keeping ourselves top-of-mind for our potential clients, leads, colleagues and networks and how this takes up an increasing amount of time to do. As we were speaking it struck me that while there really is an important principle behind keeping in touch with people and ensuring that they don’t forget you, this can quickly tip over into relentless marketing for its own sake. And then I realised that actually the best marketing is simply doing the job. And doing it well too.

You see I spend a lot of time telling my clients not to ‘chase the money’: don’t put fundraising opportunities in front of the mission or vision. Rather, follow the vision and the rest will follow. I have seen this put into practice many times in different organisations and know that it is true. Difficult, but very true.

So, every now and then I have to remind myself to follow my own goals and not to constantly chase the money, as tempting as that is. After all, the best marketing I’ve ever done, is to simply do my work, and do it very well!

Do you often get tempted to follow the money and do too much framing? How do you keep balanced?


Frank Bennett · December 11, 2019 at 6:41 am

Hi Robin, note you are also a Fellow of The RSA. Your post resonated with me as I talk to charities and the time pressure on the trustees and senior leadership team. We know that governance is challenging for the majority of charities due to i) lack of knowledge and experience (it is complex) and ii) other things to do such as fundraising (essential). Yet we read time and time again of how lack of attention to governance impacts charities (witness the growing caseload of investigations by the Regulator). Be interested in your views of how you see charities framing ‘governance’.

    admin · December 11, 2019 at 10:32 am

    Hi Frank,

    Thanks for your note. Yes, I do know what you mean and from personal experience too! In my experience governance is often framed as compliance – what is the least that we need to do and what can we get away with. But you will know that when done well, governance is a weapon for successful charities to deliver significant impact. Trustees (who are the ones actually responsible for the organisation) that ask impact-related questions, focus on performance against mission and both challenge and support their team (paid or volunteer) are going to provide significant benefits to the organisation. It is true that skills and experience can be lacking and trustees as much as anyone else can be too focused on the bottom line, especially in smaller, community-led organisations. But that shouldn’t be a barrier to good governance. I suspect that it is in our gift as consultants to demystify governance and make it accessible so that better governance equals more meaningful governance. Otherwise we are simply encouraging organisations to carry on ticking boxes.

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