Monday, June 30, 2014

BIG’s Blog: The Big Pivot

As was bound to happen, the advent of e-books has allowed more books (ideas) to be published. And, yes, a multitude of these books never break out of their friends and family circles, but increasingly we are seeing that a number of new ideas are making it into (digital) print that would otherwise have never garnered publisher support.
One of these books I recently read was by Andrew Winston called, The Big Pivot, Radically Practical Strategies for a Hotter, Scarcer, and More Open World.

The premise of the book is that companies and organizations that operate in the public sphere need to change their strategies to deal with three fundamental changes.

First, climate change, which he argues is leading to extreme weather.  Second, billions more people globally clamoring for the middle class are using up natural resources more quickly, and, third, radical transparency brought about by the Internet and social media.

Climate change is real. Of course it’s real. It’s been real for millions of years! But today the phrase sets off alarms politically because the Right thinks the Left wants to blame people for climate change and they don’t see it that way. What’s my take? Well, the climate has been changing as long as the earth has been around. I live in Nebraska and it used to be a warm inland sea millions of years ago. And more recently, Nebraska hosted glaciers until about 60,000 years ago. So climate change? What’s new about that?

But the other two issues he raises do resonate with the fundraisers.

Over the last 25 years more people have been lifted out of poverty than the world has ever seen before. And it wasn’t the UN or government programs that did it. Simply put, in certain countries there was an ideological shift towards capitalism. And voila … millions of people (actually billions of people) were not only lifted out of centuries of poverty, but the economics of their societies changed. Examples of the big populations are India and China. 30 years ago when I was in China, I saw abject poverty on the doorstep of prosperous Hong Kong. Today, Hong Kong is still prosperous, but so are all the major cities and provinces in mainland China.

India for decades was a backwards wasteland of poverty under their socialist leaders. But then political attitudes to capitalism changed and millions are being lifted up.

And, of course, China and India are just the two behemoth countries. Countless other countries on every continent have been transformed by capitalism.

But what are the implications of this economic transformation? Andrew Winston’s point isn’t a political treatise, but rather the practical reality of the implications of huge numbers of people clamoring for increased consumption worldwide.

While Winston focuses on the negative implications of “too many people clamoring for too few resources,” my take is a positive spin on this point as far as fundraising is concerned. In my lifetime, the primary donor to worldwide causes has gone from the U.S. alone, to multiple nations starting with western Europe. Since I work with many groups that are multinational, the surprise to me of late has been the rather sudden rise in giving coming from Africa. Increasingly prosperous Africans are supporting their own charities.

Combine this trend with the opening of the World Wide Web. When you put up your Website, you are in front of the world. And, increasingly, nonprofits … especially faith-based organizations … are receiving donations from all over the world.

And finally, heightened transparency brought about by the Internet. I can go to Angie’s List and find reviews of local plumbers, roofers, or handymen. Or, before I book my next vacation hotel in Cancun, I go to to check out what people who have stayed at these resorts actually thought of them . . . why do you think people would not be leaving comments about your organization online?

Many of you don’t even pay attention to this, do you? It may not even be on your radar, yet it affects how people view your organization.

There is a whole industry out there that does nothing but take care of companies’ (and nonprofit organizations’) online reputations.

Andrew Winston calls this new world “radical transparency.”

Setting aside climate change, the other two “issues” that Mr. Winston raises (the rise of a global middle class with its negative implications on limited resources but its positive implication on philanthropy, and the radical transparency brought about by the Internet) are issues that fundraisers need to be cognizant of.


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