The Management Centre
Call us: +44 (0)20 7978 1516
New dates: Project Management Book Now

Using Strategic Planning Tools for Fundraising

The Management Centre

Is your organisation competing in a Red Ocean or Blue Ocean?

Put simply, Red Ocean & Blue Ocean are two different ways of comparing the strategy of an organisation in relation to the territory they are competing in.

Red Ocean Strategy sees an organisation fighting for a share of the demand in a market which is already established and often overcrowded. In the commercial world this could be the fierce competition between Expeida,, and Kayak for the chance to sell you a discounted hotel room. A charity example might be charities like Plan, WorldVision, Action Aid and SoS Children’s Villages competing for a share of the ‘child adoption’ fund-raising mechanic.

Blue Ocean Strategy occurs when an organisation defines the market, creating something unique to produce demand previously unknown. Obvious commercial examples would be Apple and the iPod, iPhone and latterly the iPad – each of which changed the way we think about and use consumer electronics (and turned Apple into the world’s most profitable company). For charities we can think of the £1.25B Oxford Thinking Campaign which broke all the rules of HE fund-raising, or Kiva which changed the way we approach community economic development.

So is your organisations fundraising strategy Red or Blue? Are you a Category Competitor or a Category Definer?


We spoke to Bernard Ross, Director at =mc, to get an insight into how non-profits can apply more of a Blue Ocean Strategy to their fundraising efforts.

What is the first thing an organisation should consider when attempting a blue ocean fundraising strategy?

The key thing is to think of what your organisational competencies are.
To succeed at Blue Ocean you will need to:

  • Have a great idea that will capture the imagination- something that changes the way people think about what’s possible
  • Be clear on who it’s targeted at- probably not your current donors
  • Have a culture that is open to risk and innovation

To succeed at Red Ocean you will need to:

  • Have an offering or proposition that people like and want- whether it’s a raffle, or a special event
  • Be prepared to customise your offering to your current or similar donors in really specific ways
  • Have a brand that people know and respect- since your offering is similar to others’ brand equity is key

“Be clear on who it’s targeted at – probably not your current donors”

Are there any particular not-for-profit examples of an excellent blue ocean fundraising strategy?

There are more commercial ones than charity ones I think. But there have been some significant Blue Ocean efforts in recent years- a number of which, I’m delighted to say; =mc have been involved in. Examples would include some of these: the Oxford Thinking campaign or NSPCC Full Stop or the Greenpeace virtual march in 2005 (the virtual march was the first real online campaign). By their nature there aren’t so many blue ocean events.

Do you have any examples of the most common challenges to tackle when creating blue ocean strategies?

The challenges are really a complement to the competencies. As I said previously, blue ocean approaches require self confidence at an organisational and not just an individual level. They generally need resources- funds, equipment and time. And of course commitment to what will be a risky strategy.

Blue Ocean Strategy is taken from the book first published in 2005 and written by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne.

What’s Next?

Blue Ocean Strategy is one of many cutting edge tools used on our Strategic Planning Tools programme. To find out how your organisation can benefit from the course contact us online or call us on +44 (0) 20 7978 1516.

Share Using Strategic Planning Tools for Fundraising

Print Friendly, PDF & Email