Have you ever worked for someone who was always excited about every available new shiny object? Or who reads something in one article and decides it must be true for everyone (for example they read someone that direct mail is dead, so they decide to stop all direct mail – only to realize 12 months later that donation have slipped)?
Staying up-to-date on trends doesn’t mean we’re starting (or stopping) new things all the time. It just means we keep tabs on what’s working, what isn’t, what’s new and what might be slipping – in an educated consistent manner. If we read about a change, we make sure it’s backed up by multiple sources. We see who’s saying it, what audiences it applied to and what questions were asked to try and make sure we have accurate information to base decisions on.
Does that take time? Absolutely. Is it worth it? Definitely.
Where can you find this information? It’s all around us – in blog posts, articles in periodicals, research that’s being done in the sector and testing that other organizations are doing. Some particular places I go to on a regular basis are Giving USA, the Atlas of Giving, AFP’s Advancing Philanthropy. Then there are the RSS feeds I follow from thought leaders such as Beth Kanter, Gail Perry, Tom Ahern, Simone Joyaux and more (I regularly read about 80 articles a week to find the 8 I highlight in my weekly fundraising headlines).
Where do you NOT get information from to make decisions on? To start with, anyone who is sharing their own opinion and making the assumption that everyone thinks, believes, acts and feels the same way they do. You also don’t want to rely on information from people who are trying to be counter-cultural just for the sake of it.
If you read something that doesn’t match up with your experience – or with what the majority of people are saying – do a little follow up work and find out more about the person (I made the mistake several years ago of sharing something on my Facebook feed from someone before doing any background research on the person – turns out they were on one of the more polarizing news stations – not something I wanted to be known for!).
What if you just don’t have time to keep up with this yourself? Be part of a group where you can pool your knowledge and compare notes.
Have additional suggestions to share? Please include them in the comments section – I’d love to hear them!