Saturday, May 28, 2011

Top 5 Considerations Before you Make the Move

So the time has come for you to make the transition from the for-profit world into the charitable sector? Congratulations!  Before you take the plunge and whatever stage in the process you're at, here’s a "Top 5 Considerations" checklist for you to review. It draws on previous posts of my own, plus a variety of the conversations I’ve been having just in the last few weeks.

  1. What’s your motivation? Are you trying to "fix" a charity or charities? Are you trying to "give back" from your years of for-profit expertise? If so you may find your reception is less warm than you hope. Charities of all kinds need your skills, but the cornerstone of success is passion, a passion for the cause and a genuine desire to support the Mission.
  2. How big a paycheck do you need? Remember there’s a general correlation between the size of the charity and the size of the paycheque. So the larger Universities and Colleges, the Hospitals, and the bigger health charities (Heart, Cancer, etc.) generally have the capacity to pay more.
  3. Does the charity speak your language? This is a little subtler, but organizations that already have some for-profit thinking in their "bloodstream" may be an easier place for you to initially make your transition. Is their CEO or Executive Director from the for-profit world? Do they have a social venture aspect like Habitat for Humanity? Do they have membership that requires business concepts in the same way as the YMCA’s Health and Fitness centres?
  4. Have you lived some of the charitable life already? If you haven’t sat on a charitable Board, or volunteered for key events or committees over an extended period of time you’re likely not ready for the move. First, you’ll likely get asked about it in the interview process, and just as important it will give you a sense of whether you really want to move in this direction in the first place.
  5. How’s your network? Not only will finding the right role be much easier if you know people in the charitable world and on charitable Boards, but being successful is much easier too if you have experienced resources to draw upon. In a way that that is quite different from most highly competitive for-profit sectors the ability to liaise, connect and even partner with "competitors" is important in the charitable world, and only going to get more so.
Good luck in the search and always remember you don’t have to work in a charity to make a difference FOR a charity!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Marketing: Gold-plated Charitable Dreams

In the Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) world marketing is king. It may be the first budget to get trimmed when sales volumes are soft, but it’s still king. Many charitable leaders look with envy at those impressive ad campaigns and dream of running such a gold-plated media campaign in support of their organizations

Sadly for those charitable leaders it’s actually not that easy, nor possibly even that advisable to launch the campaign even if the funds are available, and here’s why:
  • For any charity to spend that much on any media vehicle might well scare off new donors, let alone offend existing donors. If you publish too glossy an Annual Report some donors worry about mis-spent gifts, so just imagine the questions about your new TV and print campaign. "If they have that much money why do they need more of mine
  • Charities are complex. Getting your whites whiter, or selling "fewer cavities", are simple messages. Charities do need to figure out effective ways to communicate a simple and impactful version of their message – but even once that’s done how much time and effort (and money) do you want to spend educating the broad mass of prospects on the real complexities of your activities
  • CPG marketing departments are full of bright minds who spend a lot of time figuring out the "key message", and once that’s done spend a lot more time and money with their agency figuring out how to most cost effectively reach their target audience. Very few charities have those resources, so there is a very real risk of spending money on media that doesn’t reach your target audience. In other words a shotgun approach is expensive and may be doomed to failure anyhow
In the end, for most charities the biggest distinction on the Marketing side is about products versus feelings. CPG Marketing is fundamentally about meeting an unmet need, real or perceived, by trading the consumer’s money for a product. By definition every charity meets a need, but charities ultimately trade a donor’s money for a good feeling. And selling a feeling is a very tricky thing. Done well both CPG Marketers and charities can achieve greatness through selling feelings (just ask Apple or Nike). But its hard to do well, particularly on a small budget

That’s why most charities stick to marketing in ways they know best. For example, stewarding donors well, getting articles in the local paper, or sharing a well-written newsletter. Solid, less glamorous but certainly less risky ways to consistently build a charitable brand.