Former charity campaigner
Mencap and MDUK
Posted 5 years ago
I’ve been a fan of the Great British Bake Off since Season One. Since then I have enjoyed the emotional rollercoaster of every series, finding myself caring about strangers and sponges more than I ever thought possible. I still get flashbacks to custard gate (poor Howard!). It’s reached the stage this year where I’ve even blocked out Wednesday evenings for viewing. Tonight is the final and this year’s final feels exactly that- final. As we all know (although may be yet to come to terms with), the Bake Off is moving channel and losing its three leading ladies who have been core to its success. So, I was feeling nostalgic on the train and I started thinking about what puts the “Great” in Bake Off and five lessons I think we, as a sector, should take from it.
Competition can be friendly
Behind all the fondant and batter, the bakers are all competing with one another in the tent. They all want to win that trophy! In much the same way, charities are in competition. We have to compete for money, for support and for coverage. But, that doesn’t mean we can’t admire and praise the work of others. Much like the bakers will applaud each other on winning the technical or star baker or for producing a knockout bake, we can and should applaud each other when we launch an amazing campaign, create a hard-hitting video or run a successful fundraising event. Why? Because we are all working towards the same cause of making the world a better place and we also know the hard work and dedication that goes into doing that.
Give things the time they deserve
In the tent, the bakers are repeatedly told how important timing is. It can be the difference between the joy of a Paul Hollywood handshake or being decimated by his disapproving look. Nobody wants a soggy bottom or a charcoal nightmare. This is much the same in charities; you want to do a good job. As with baking, a lot of this can come down to timing. Timing when to launch a campaign action or fundraising ask so that it has the biggest impact. The time you dedicate to planning a project or writing a consultation response so you make sure it’s the best it can be. I know it can often feel like there isn’t enough time but we will end up with a better result if we invest our time wisely in the work that matters (I can’t promise a Paul handshake at the end though- sorry!).
Things should look good, but that’s not the most important thing
How many times have we seen a baker make something that looked a knockout but left the judges wanting in terms of flavour? This is a much needed reminder of how you need to get the basics right before worrying about the way things look. It’s great when you have the opportunity to work with talented creative professionals who can make your videos, photos, websites, mail outs, actions etc look incredible. However, if the message isn’t right or is unclear then none of that matters. Despite living in a world obsessed with image, we need to focus on the quality of the content we are producing before worrying about how things look. The message is what matters most.
Caring how something turns out shows you’re passionate
Sobbing over a dry sponge? Crying over stolen custard? Having a melt down over a melting Baked Alaska? It all sounds a bit melodramatic out of context. But, we know better. Those emotions are entirely justified. Why? Because the bakers are putting their heart and soul into what they are doing. They cry because they care. It’s the same in charities. As a self confessed crier, I will always defend fellow criers. But caring about something doesn’t just manifest in tears. It is shown when people work late to meet a deadline or get frustrated at delays in sign off. It is shown in the hysteria and exhaustion that follows a big campaign launch. In my opinion, the charity sector is stuffed with as many passionate people as a good fruit cake is with currants and that's one of the things I love about it!
People are the most important thing
Whether it’s Mel and Sue’s puns, Paul's steely gaze, Mary saying “layers” as though it’s a place where I vampire lives or each and every baker who wins our hearts each year; it is the people who make the Bake Off great. For me, this is the same in the charity world. Look around you at the people you work with. There will be those who make you laugh with their rubbish jokes, those who you admire and want to impress and those you call friends, who keep you going in the tough times. I consider myself so fortunate to be surrounded by so many truly fabulous people at work. It is they who make good days brilliant and bad days manageable. It’s the same in the tent; the baker’s camaraderie gets them all through and is also what wins us, the audience, over time and time again.
The Bake Off may be changing, but we can all keep its memory living on by practicing the lessons it taught us. Then, we too, can be “Great.”