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#39 “It's easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission”

U.S. Rear Admiral Grace Hopper’s famous quote is one that many face-to-face agencies subscribe to: “It is easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission”, but this only works when the idea you wish to follow through on is a good one. This is where a few suppliers may come unstuck.

Some operate under the assumption that all of their ideas are 24 carat gold despite evidence to the contrary. Being told that we need to provide pins/badges to show how much the fundraiser has raised (Mark.A, I’m not letting this one go); selling products that have nothing to do with your brand (that you must pay for out of an imaginary budget); and putting an entire marketing office on your campaign without training or welcome packs may seem like visionary ideas, but they backfire quicker than they can get started.

F2F agencies are generally reactionary organisations operated by those who speak quickly and make decisions even quicker, but that doesn’t always lead to glory.

I’ve seen this attitude more regularly in the use of restricted locations, where the agency sends a team without permission and apologise for it later. They might be shocked to hear that although this risk-taking attitude might get them through this rough patch, it’ll leave a sour taste in the mouths of their clients, and they won’t be forgiven so easily next time.

My first experience of working charity-side left me feeling frustrated and annoyed with how long things took. A 12-page FAQs booklet took six months to sign off and print! I would create the same booklet in under a week when I was agency-side and it would be in the hands of every fundraiser within a fortnight. But I learned that this was for good reason.

Decisions made in large charities are initiated by proposals, critiqued by line-management and then sent to senior management to be signed off to go to the board. This time-consuming exercise provides ample room for edits and knock-backs so that bad decisions are less likely to be made. Maintenance of brand reputation is paramount for our charities, so they cannot risk losing this through sloppy or rushed decisions.

It may take a charity some time to make a decision, but agencies, please believe me, I know it can be frustrating, give them the time to make the decision and then work together in partnership on the issue. Communication is key to a successful relationship. One that is littered with deceit and apologies will not last.

A more fitting quote attributed to Hopper that we should learn from and live by is “the most dangerous phrase in the language is ‘we’ve always done it this way’.”

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