Dealing with tech overwhelm

3D printing. Bonjoro. Big data. Telegram. Wearable tech. YouTube Live. Microformats. Chatbots. Instagram. Sentiment analysis. Content marketing. Tiktok. Conversational campaigning. Frictionless forms. The internet of things. WhatsApp. Augmented reality. Microtargeting…

Frankly it’s all bewildering. Like watching a washing-machine filled with Christmas lights on spin cycle.

If you’re the head of a non-profit fundraising, campaigning or comms department, or you’re involved in running a charity, I sympathise with this feeling of overwhelm.

What do you invest your donors’ money in? That money’s got blood splotches, sweat stains and tear tracks on it.

Do you play it safe and spend it on ever-diminishing returns from tried and tested methods? Or do you take a punt on something new and risk frightening the board away from shiny shiny things forever?

I am going to propose a solution. But first, I’m going to take you back to the Naughties.

Were you, like me, hooked on Property Ladder back then?

(For those not in the know, this was a UK TV series about property investment. Each show saw a sarcastic but successful development consultant, Sarah Beeny, visit an amateur development project over time. You would watch as she patiently explained to the subjects where they were about to make silly mistakes. Then you would roll your eyes along with her as these lucky recipients of expensive advice got defensive. Invariably they refused to change course. And thus, at the close of every episode there would be a gratifying point where the hapless beginners had to admit that Sarah was right all along. In a surprise twist, they would usually earn thousands anyway due to the massive property bubble building in the mid-2000s. Really, I think they should have called the show ‘how to be a complete doughnut and still earn thousands’.)

This show, together with falling trust in the stock market, sparked an entire nation to ditch their pension and try investing in property.

This plague of foolishness infected me too – I should have known better than to buy a house in 2007. A friend with financial expertise told me I was mad. Thankfully he was a bit more gracious with his comments than Sarah Beeny when I had to sell it quickly in 2013. I think I lost a few thousand in total due to negative equity.

So that put me right off investment in property. (That and coming to the conclusion that treating houses like pensions is now preventing 99% of millennials owning their own home due to the rise in land prices.)

I digress, but this got me thinking. Is there such a thing as a safe investment? Is there anywhere I can put money that gives me 100% control over it?

I realised there was only one answer to this question: my own brain. And since then I have invested around £20,000 – probably more – in my own development and the development of others.

This brings me to another point. I see a trend these days where many well-respected non-profits are struggling to properly reward and keep their staff.

So, we have several challenges all at once: a bewildering array of technologies, high staff turnover, political uncertainty and falling donations from safe sources. Is this a disaster?

Nope. Not by a long shot.

If you listen carefully (or not even carefully, because to me the cries are registering at several thousand decibels) you can hear staff at non-profits ask for more training.

Of course! In this sector we all want to get better at what we do.

I think we can be sure that the way to address all of these problems at once is to invest more in training. Put your donors’ money to work on the most sure-fire return there can be – developing yourself and your people.

Training pays off at an extraordinary return on investment. (This academic meta-analysis shows that it ranges from 0.5% to 5,900%. And nowhere – but nowhere – does it make a loss.)

Skills are safe from the vagaries of financial bubbles, climate disaster or whatever bizarre act that our political circus brings into the ring next.

If you have staff trained in general digital or persuasion topics, you can spot more easily which technologies are winners, and which aren’t. Your colleagues – or you – will have the skills to quickly test them cheaply and quickly, rather than taking a wild punt. And you’ll find everybody is happier as a result – including your board.

With that in mind, do join my course “How to write emails that get a response” – it gives you a quick and surefire return on investment, given that all of us do so much emailing. If you are able to take your response rate from 0.1% to 0.2% on just one fundraising campaign to over 1,000 people, this course – on average – will have paid for itself 2.5 times over. In a couple of weeks.

Get a ticket here: