• Alan Clayton, PF International

Creative concepts: conflict, consensus and compromise

A focused and powerful creative concept drives fundraising growth.


Every fundraiser knows this and most fundraisers have cried, banged their head in frustration or even left their job when their artfully created powerful idea has been destroyed.


It has had so much added, subtracted, amended, redacted and opined on that it’s lost all its power, inspires nobody and doesn’t raise any money. Despite their lack of control over this process, it’s then often the fundraiser who is blamed for the poor performance.




Why does this happen?


Internal conflict leans to consensus decision making which leads to compromise. And compromise is the death of the Great Fundraising concept, as it is the opposite of focus and focus is what gives a great concept its power.


If the organisation accepts a compromised concept (the lowest common denominator) in order to appease internal conflict then it compromises its ability to raise money.


So the problem in creating great concepts is: internal conflict.


How to solve this problem? We’ve studied and worked with over 300 organisations and concluded the following:


  1. If the conflict is caused by ignorance in other departments as to what the fundraising department needs, then a course of education is required. This is required for everybody from the board to administrators. Everyone must know and understand that fundraising needs focus and that it takes a serious professional to achieve this. If other departments do not like this, they must at the very least professionally respect it. ‘I don’t like it’ must not be allowed to compete with ‘I have evidence it works.’

  2. The fundraiser must become the master or mistress of the internal conversation. Lunches, coffee and time invested in colleagues across the organisation must become a strategic priority.

  3. Have ‘No compromise champions’ in every department at your organisation. They are highly trained and responsible for managing input from their department to fundraising and making it excellent.

  4. The final decision on big concepts cannot be delegated to middle management or perhaps not even to the executive team. If different departments are left to negotiate the organisation’s ‘big message’ you will end up with a compromised concept and therefore compromised performance. Decide the decision-making group before you start your creative process and make sure everyone knows who the decision-making group. The job of the decision-making group is to make a non-compromised recommendation to the chief executive.

  5. From watching and working with the successful organisations, we can make an unequivocal recommendation: all departments, including the board, should input, but the final call, and refusal to compromise, must come from the chief executive or general secretary. Like it or not, that’s what works if you want to raise significantly more money for your organisation.


These steps will help you to create a supportive culture of fundraising that gives fundraisers the freedom to develop the very best concepts for their donors. Why not give it a try yourself?


Because in the end, embracing conflict and making crisp decisions separates the successful organisations, the ones that significantly grow fundraising, from the rest.

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