Money Spinning and Hungry Cows

Money Spinning and Hungry Cows


You’re leading an organisation, and in your position as the person at the top, you come across some amazing people and pieces of information. You’re creative, and so it’s no surprise that on a regular basis you come up with some pretty big ideas. There’s a problem though; You know that your top team and your employees also have big ideas, and your strong suspicion is that your customers have lots too. So, do you spend your time putting yourself and your team under pressure to have ‘Eureka’ moments (or should I say, slowing down to have them?)… Or do you focus on getting out there and talent spotting the hits of tomorrow?

I pondered this question this morning as I listened to David Cameron speak at NESTA, on the subject of innovation. He talked about ‘thinking afresh about society’s problems’, and I thought about the pupils leaving our schools, greeting the world of work with a new perspective. One of my first jobs was working in a pub, and on the first day, I noticed forty things wrong with the place, from the ripped carpet to the broken window. On my second day, I must have noticed 39 things wrong, and – you’ve guessed it- after forty days, the place was pretty near perfect. But nothing had changed. We get used to things, which means that, in Britain as in any country, we put up with some things which are downright outrageous. Imagine harnessing children’s first impressions and using them to stimulate change in business, charity and over the whole country.

My first experience of giving money was by putting coins into one of those ‘helter skelter’ spinners, where the coin spirals round and round until it drops into the hole in the base. No, this is not a public sector analogy, it’s a point about making things fun. I gave a shiny coin, and in return I, who have always been easily pleased, was mildly amused for up to 30 seconds, in a way that I might not have been by dropping money into a money box in the shape of Sooty the small orange bear. Although even this is arguably more imaginative than a perspex box which you can even SEE into (well done MacDonalds). On an, almost, completely unrelated point, making donating fun works for rubbish too, as the people in Somerset, England found when they made bins which looked like Freisan Cows, and saw recycling levels rise by over 60%. I’ve mentioned before Plato’s observation that he could learn more about someone in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. I’m sure there’s a similarly wise quotation out there about turning boring things into games.

“Show me a chore turned into a game, and I’ll show you a result worth taking seriously”

Something like that.

Falling off my high cow, let me mention the upcoming London Marathon. It never ceases to amaze me how many friends turn to charity as a way of raising money. “I’ll run the London Marathon, and you can give me some money. All you need to do is get out your credit card. In return, you are supporting a great cause, and can feel good in the knowledge of the fact that you’re supporting me as a person. You’re also helping me in a way I may or may not choose to repay in some complimentary currency further down the line.” There is nothing wrong with this. My observation is that it is not the best approach. It’s the “all you need to do” bit which I have a problem with. Not because it’s too much, but because it’s not enough. I’m not talking about hassle, I’m talking about ‘emotional connection’ (for want of a better phrase) with what the other person is doing. My number one piece of advice to runners and swimmers alike is to turn to social enterprise as a way of raising money; Create a product or service which people will pay for and value, and give the profits to your good cause; You might end up with far more than a token ten pounds from the people you know. It’s RAISING money in the good-old fashioned bring and buy sense. Put away your money tins and start filling them with biscuits. In the shape of cows.

Here’s my idea for the day;

Combine the concepts of a drinks party with a charity clothes shop; Book a room above a pub (don’t pay for this, just say it’s for a charity event and that you’ll bring a good number of people). Alternatively, do it at home. Ask everyone to bring clothes which they don’t want anymore, but that may well appeal to others. Price every item as people come in (have a flat rate of a fiver for most stuff and a tenner for really good stuff). If you’re at home and buying the drinks, charge people a tenner or a fiver for all they can drink (beer and wine). Ask two friends to staff the coatrails while you mix with everyone and talk about the run and how the build up is going. Collect the proceeds and give them to your good cause.

Which (almost) brings us back to where we started. From political ideas to clothes, sometimes it’s not where they begin that matters, it’s where they end up.

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