Tag Archive | "Creative capitalism"

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5 Reasons Your Not-for-Profit Marketing May Be Failing

Posted on 31 July 2011 by Philip Brookes

Marketing of not-for-profit causes and organisations is the challenge of a lifetime. Many people expect that, because they’re promoting something incredibly worthwhile and rewarding, they simply need to get the message out and tens of thousands of supporters will materialise overnight. But as anybody who’s actually tried it can attest, that’s very rarely the case. Why?

In an increasingly socially conscious generation, many organisations are competing for the attention of your target audience. Numerous causes are asking donors to contribute funds out of the generosity of their heart, but with no direct economic benefit being offered in exchange, and the public is becoming increasingly discerning in their selection of organisations to support.

Here are five of the most common areas, in my experience, that marketing of NFP’s fall short:

1. Lack of Knowledge

Effective marketing strategies require market knowledge, product knowledge, company knowledge, and a strong working knowledge of the marketing mediums in which you’re going to promote.

I frequently see enthusiastic marketers throwing themselves directly into marketing campaigns based on a host of assumptions, many of which are inaccurate or unclear.

People often don’t know what they don’t know. Often, some basic market research would improve their focus, saving a lot of wasted energy on unproductive activities, and uncovering key motivators for their audience.

Likewise, when it comes to social media and online marketing opportunities, many marketers are struggling to keep up with a rapidly evolving landscape which changes the dynamics of marketing significantly. Where historically marketers ‘advertised’ their wares and controlled what was said, now consumers have the power and it is up to marketers to win their loyalty, support, and recommendations.

It is critical that marketers dedicate a suitable portion of their time to meeting with their peers, attending seminars, listening to the counsel of experts in their field, and generally ensuring that they are exposed to the successes of leaders in these new fields. (Our Marketing Essentials Seminar in September 2011 is one such venue to enhance their practical knowledge and skills in areas of Market Research, Internet Marketing, and Social Media).

2. Lack of Resources

I’ve seen a lot of campaigns launch and flop that were reasonably well devised, but failed predominantly because the organisation underestimated the resources necessary to achieve the stated goals.

A well researched and targeted message, with a compelling proposition, still needs to be heard by enough people. And the results are not linear. As you reach a certain level of public awareness, the message can take on a life of its own and this has a multiplying effect.

Therefore, radio advertising on a community radio station for a short period (e.g. a couple of weeks) may have little or no impact, and yet it’s inaccurate to assume that multiplying the radio budget by a factor of 10 would yield similarly poor results.

Using the same message, but increasing the repetition over a longer period of time and to a larger audience, may well generate great results, particularly when conducted as part of an integrated strategy with email marketing, social media, blogs, and so on.

Not-for-profit organisations need to understand that the old adage ‘you need to spend money to make money’ is (unfortunately) still essentially true.

Whilst you may be able to find clever ways to get free exposure, it’s very rare that an organisation can effectively promote themselves without dedicating the necessary human resources and budget to their marketing.

3. Lack of Differentiation

If you’ve researched the market, devoted sufficient resources, and got the message out to the right audience, the question still remains – “so what?”, “Why should I get involved with your organisation?”

Most of us are overwhelmed by a never-ending stream of requests from thousands of organisations all asking us to pitch in and help their ostensibly worthy cause. How does an individual decide who he’s going to commit his limited time or money to?

It’s a sad reality that the majority of the world lives in poverty, and there are tens of thousands of organisations trying to feed and educate starving and malnourished children, provide sanitary drinking water supplies, eradicate malaria and AIDS, and so on. Whilst your goals are noble, so are the goals of the last 10 requests the consumer was confronted with.

The key is differentiation. How you ‘position’ and differentiate yourself is a critical element of your marketing strategy.

4. Lack of Relationship

As more and more organisations go online to find and connect with their ‘audience’ and stakeholders, some are still thinking in the mindset of traditional advertising – that is, present a carefully crafted message for the masses, and trust that a sufficient percentage will respond favourably.

Social media marketing requires an adjustment of mindset. Whilst there are still opportunities to present advertisements and offers, the real power of social media lies in engaging the public (in particular your target audience) so that they participate in discussions, share your ideas with their own social networks, and give you suggestions, feedback, and even criticism.

Social media marketing is about relationship.

5. Lack of Sustainability

Perhaps the greatest challenge for many not-for-profit organisations, particularly those involved in international development and poverty alleviation, is leveraging the donations of financial supporters so that current marketing activities reap longer term rewards.

This is potentially the single most important question not-for-profit organisations can ask themselves. It’s a much bigger question than just “how do we advertise what we do”, it actually requires that you continually review your core operations and be prepared to enhance and adapt them to maximise the impact of the funding your receive.

I believe that it’s time for a lot of organisations to ask some tough questions about their whole operational model and consider new opportunities such as ‘creative capitalism‘, micro-lending, capacity building, and other commercial endeavours that, with the assistance of seed capital to launch, will over time become self-sustaining. (The book ‘Out of Poverty‘ by Paul Polak illustrates this brilliantly and may provide some inspiration. Also check out kiva.org)

If you could market your not-for-profit organisation with the promise of multiplying rewards, and potentially even some small returns to ‘investors’ (as opposed to donors) you would open the door to a vast new audience who, under current models, may be completely unreachable.

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Tax Breaks to Encourage Individual Poverty-Fighters?

Posted on 15 October 2010 by Philip Brookes

Extreme poverty is, well, an extreme issue – and it requires extreme commitment and creativity to address it. I’m always reading other people’s works, visiting developing countries, and basically trying to soak up and synthesise as much knowledge and experience as I can.

In continuing my reading of Creative Capitalism, edited by Michael Kinsley, I’ve just encountered a fresh idea I hadn’t considered before and I believe it warrants serious consideration – particularly by Government, who would need to get behind this to enact it:

“…domestic tax deductions to generate incentives for new investments in the world’s poorest countries.”

Apparently this concept, mentioned by Nancy Birdsall, was proposed by Eric Werker. It immediately struck me as having great potential.

I’m not sure the scope that Eric envisaged, and I know that risk-averse parliamentarians will immediately raise concerns about how this would be so difficult to monitor and therefore open to abuse, but I believe it’s the type of idea which warrants further efforts to devise an implementation plan that could allay most fears whilst maximising the anticipated benefit.

In fact, if I could push my version of this idea through the ranks of Government, it would extend not just to corporations but also to individuals who chose to volunteer or engage in grassroots level poverty-relief activities in developing countries. There is nothing more powerful than the passion, blood, sweat and tears of individuals dedicated to bettering people’s lives – it will never be matched by the bureaucracy of Government, or dare I say it, even by corporate capitalism – at least, in terms of the ‘output per head’!


Picture of siblings living in extreme poverty ...

Image via Wikipedia


Essentially, wouldn’t it create more opportunities for an individual or their organisation to get engaged in ‘sacrificial’ poverty relief related activities if they were completely tax exempt?

The arguments that would immediately be presented against such a scheme would no doubt be:

  • loss of revenue – but realistically, even if with such a tax break, the number of people who would give up their typical Western lifestyles to throw themselves into this type of extreme poverty relief-oriented work would be a tiny percentage of our overall population, so that’s really a red herring argument
  • abuse of the system – a valid concern, and I do feel that this system needs to be relatively easy to access, rather than being all tied up in red tape, but with a few sensible checks and measures surely the risk could be kept at such a level as to pale in comparison to the potential benefits

My view has long been that poverty is only going to be addressed by tapping into the everyday purchasing power of the general public, rather than endlessly depending on charitable donations which never seem to fund more than a fraction of the necessary works – this approach releases the resources and passion of individuals who have a heart-felt commitment to assisting humanity with minimal impact on the Government’s bottom line, and in a way which I believe will be highly efficient.

What do you think? I’d love to hear a lot more discussion on this topic! Please do share, either via the comments on this post or by emailing me privately.

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Bill Gates and Creative Capitalism

Posted on 25 January 2008 by Philip Brookes

Okay, it might be almost 3am but I’ve just read an article reporting on Bill Gates’ newly-coined term of “Creative Capitalism” that I finally felt is starting to ‘get it’, so I just HAVE to throw in my 2 cents!

I suspect that Bill Gates and I are still a fair way apart in our thinking on this, but if you put us in a room with 10 other individuals to debate how to “Make Poverty History”, I reckon we might be the two most likely to team up against the rest.

The point that Bill’s starting to articulate is that there’s a crucial role for commercial enterprise to play in turning around the fortunes of the 2 billion poorest people on the planet. We might approach the question of business involvement, or “creative capitalism”, differently but we both recognise that companies play an important role.

Up until recently, I’ve accepted unquestioningly the repeatedly reinforced message that I’ve heard throughout my entire life, that less fortunate people in developing countries need our generous donations (channelled through some fantastic aid and development programs) to help lift them out of their poverty – “a hand up, not a handout”. For many years my thoughts never progressed beyond that, because the work that is done by these awesome aid and development agencies is truly inspirational, effective and worthwhile.

But it’s not enough.

The single biggest shortcoming of this model is that it relies almost entirely on ongoing benevolence from richer countries, and the “average” citizen is so far removed from the realities of extreme poverty that they are very reluctant to be parted from their money – “after all, how much difference could my $20 really make??”

Whether we like it or not, money is what lifts people out of poverty, and therefore to have a truly successful long-term strategy, we need a “money machine” – business.

That might sound simplistic, and people will give me examples of how either (i) locally-owned businesses from developing countries are hugely profitable and yet don’t seem to make a tangible improvement to the local economy, or (ii) NGO development organisations are involved in micro-enterprise and other similiar business initiatives and yet, once again, the country as a whole seems to be permanently bogged down in their poverty. But I believe there’s a key missing element even in these situations.

It’s not enough just to establish enterprise if the profits are pocketed by one wealthy businessman. An increase in employment is helpful, but not enough.

It’s also not enough to just train people with better vocational skills, increased literacy, and greater business skills.

In my opinion, the key is to channel (a portion of) the generous donations from developed countries into establishing viable and competitive export businesses in these poverty-stricken regions, owned and operated by passionate “capitalist” business owners who love running their business – and then to have these owners reinvest from their profits into training, skills development, R&D, and other aspects of their local community.

A commercially-sound model of business which generates revenues from the richer societies to feed into the poorer ones, along with a true heart for the local society, education, training, and eradicating poverty is a sustainable model which creates an ever-increasing stream of earned income (rather than donations) AND betters the community in numerous ways.

It’s my dream (with plans already starting to emerge) to establish a commercially viable business in a developing country (my personal passion is for the Philippines, hence I’d start there) that has as it’s goals to:
(i) establish a strong export trade to developed countries
(ii) reinvest profits into training and employment opportunities, community programs, and growth of the enterprise

This conscious focus on prioritising the needs of the people above my own personal wealth is, in my opinion, the most important factor to rebuild a devastated economy and to present the poorest populations with really opportunity and hope for their futures.

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