Be more magpie

Research on magpie behaviour (link below) has shown they are not attracted to shiny things, as we like to believe, but instead they try to avoid them. It set me thinking about the lure of the shiny new innovative projects that can appeal to funders and philanthropists giving money to charities.

Charities do great work that changes lives and givers big and small want to support them to do this. But behind that great work is lots of far less interesting things that have to happen. Someone needs to do the payroll; insurance needs to be renewed; minibuses taken for their MOTs; risk assessments and plans written; databases need to be maintained.

Charities all say that it is hard to raise money for their core costs yet many grants exclude them. Full cost recovery and compacts try to address this but often charities have to find ways to package their overheads into their project costs to get them covered.  Or they spend precious time away from the frontline to gather unrestricted funding from events and sales.

Similarly, charities bemoan having to find ways to change or dress up their existing work to look like new projects. What they do is working well but lots of funders won’t consider supporting it as they want to back something different and innovative.

As our understanding of magpies has changed, maybe we should learn from this and be more magpie. Rather than just funding the attractive work that gives us those shiny case studies. Perhaps we should find reward in funding what the charity wants and needs. More funders and philanthropists should willingly fund the photocopier service contract, the admin worker or the office cleaner.  Or be proud to fund the continuation of existing work that is needed and getting good outcomes. They might be a little less shiny but they are vital.