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Thriving on Chaos - Inspiration for 2022?


As we start another fundraising year, I am reminded of a challenging book by Tom Peters, entitled “Thriving on Chaos”. Published in 1987, the main thrust of the book was that our economies and societies are increasingly becoming chaotic, with rapid changes taking place and that, rather than try to tame them, we need to go with the chaos, work flexibly and constantly try new approaches – otherwise, our organisations will be left behind. It seems strangely prophetic today.

Someone once wrote that there are three types of organisation. Those that help to create change (they will flourish), those that realise change is happening and manage to catch up (they will survive) and those who do not realise change is happening (they are probably doomed).

Most charities sit somewhere in the middle category. During Covid, they have been able to adapt to the changes thrust upon them, modify their fundraising practices and seize the new opportunities (think online meetings and events).

For example, I recently took part in an online event hosted by a charity with people attending live all over the world. It was very moving to hear first-hand from people about the challenges they were facing and was a great way to connect donors directly to people they are supporting. Of course, the event included an opportunity to give. It also reinforced the decision to support the charity, increasing donor loyalty. This was an excellent example of the use of technology – accelerated by the pandemic – to innovate in fundraising.

If anything, our world is more chaotic now that in 1987 when Peters was writing. It will only become more so, with the advent of AI, accelerating climate change, increasing global competition for resources, culture wars and further economic shocks. Each of these will bring challenges and opportunities to our organisations.

So the question is, how will your charity respond? Will it thrive, survive or go bust? That will depend on visionary leadership and on building a flexible culture, where managers are free to innovate and take risks, to think outside the box and find new solutions to emerging problems.

We wish you every success in 2022. May you thrive on the chaos!

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