Injecting a bit of fun into your fundraiser training sessions will help make them more engaging and memorable – so liven things up with these top tips from Lucy Gower
When I was 10 years old I loved science, because my science teacher, Mr Sykes, made science exciting and fun. We made stink bombs in the playground, we fed worms to salamanders and we made experiments with fire and ice. He made us curious about how the world around us worked; he didn’t just tell us the answers, he showed us through practical lessons that helped us learn for ourselves.
I learned more from Mr Sykes (who in my opinion was the best science teacher that ever walked the planet) than any other teacher that year because his love of the topic was inspiring and he made our whole class want to learn. He made learning fun. Can you remember your best subjects when you were 10 years old? I’d bet it might have been something to do with how they were taught.
Many organisations have a cultural problem with fun. Fun can be seen as frivolous, yet in my experience teams that perform best are the ones that have fun. They enjoy working together, they are happy and engaged in solving problems and they also get better results. A study by economists at the University of Warwick has also shown that happy teams are more productive and psychologists as far back as the 1970’s showed that people’s creativity flows when they are in a ‘playful’ mindset – or in other words, having fun.
So, to make more impact on the bottom line, it makes sense to make training more fun (as well as day-to-day work life in general). You might train your fundraisers in-house, or you might employ a trainer or consultancy to do it. Whatever your route, remember Mr Sykes.
Here are my five top tips:
1. Lead by example
The trainer sets the tone. If the trainer is really formal and serious the session will be, if the trainer is relaxed, friendly, engaging and fun the session will be. Work with a trainer that loves their topic, someone whose enthusiasm and passion for the topic is infectious. Just like how Mr Sykes loved science.
However, don’t underestimate the skills and experience in the room, in my experience people love to share their knowledge and help each other. It makes it more collaborative – no one wants to spend the whole time listening to the trainer at the front showing off their PowerPoint skills.
2. Break the ice
Introductions and icebreakers are great to get to know who is in the room and what they want from the session. Do something different than just go round the room asking for name and job title, but don’t make people do wacky things for the sake of it – it is painful for everyone involved – throwing balls about, rhyming names with fruit, building human bridges, etc. Are they really fun, or are they excruciating?
The purpose of an icebreaker should be to break the patterns in our thinking to signal that this day is not a ‘normal' working day. It should also have a learning point that is relevant for the session. So, where you can, make the things you ask from people at the start of the session relevant to the topic. For example, when I train teams in storytelling, I sometimes ask them what their favourite story was when they were a child.
Think about who is in the room, the number of people and size of the room before deciding on the most appropriate icebreaker activity.
3. Provide experiences
People learn when they experience, not when they are just told things. Whatever your topic, mix presenting the theory with activities and opportunities for people to work together in groups. You can even bring a really dry topic, like data protection (apologies to those who love data protection) to life by giving people scenarios to discuss or, depending on the group, even role play.
Everyone has different learning styles, so use a range of activities if you can. But never just do an activity just because it is ‘fun’ (or because you think it is fun – you are not your target audience, so consider what the audience might enjoy). Every activity must have a learning point.
Get people out and about, sending people out to walk and talk in pairs or groups to discuss a question or a topic works really well, especially after lunch. Where you can, set up experiments or a game so people learn by the results – just like you would in a science lesson. And tell stories – we have better memory recall for stories than for facts and figures. A story can really bring a topic to life.
4. Break the mould
Be different, unexpected, surprising – like the time Mr Sykes told us we were going to make stink bombs (and not to let the headteacher know). Consider delivering your training session off site – if you can find a venue that is not the ‘normal’ place that people come to work, and if the venue is quirky, different and not a corporate meeting room, it signals a different tone. Find a venue that is different, new and fun.
Be prepared to go off script, too. Don’t be predictable. (I always reserve the right to change the agenda at any point in time if I’ve thought of a different way of delivering something that might help the group more than my original idea.) And don’t revert to ‘normal’ working hours. Sometimes two half days is more productive than a full day.
5. Take a few risks
Anything new or different can feel risky. Consider the worst that can happen if you test something new. It might not work. However, if there is a chance that it might work better than the conventional way, then it’s worth trying it out. For example, I used to volunteer teaching basic maths to adults. They all aced their 3x table by singing it with De La Soul. It felt risky but it worked, and there was a lot of laughter at the same time.
Lucy Gower is a trainer, consultant and coach. She helps individuals and teams think creatively to get better results. You can find out more at www.lucidity.org.uk