28 January 2009

do better to do right

So this is something I think I've barely blogged about since I started up here about a year ago: the fact that I work for a charity. This credit crunchy time is interesting for brands generally. And charities obviously get affected by people feeling strapped for cash. That £2 a month is one of the first things to go when you're trying to find savings on your personal or household outgoings. But at the same time charities set out to have a positive, transformative effect on the world, so they need the support as many people as possible. So what can they do to ensure they take as many people with them to prevent cancer, save the human or end cruelty to children? I'm no expert, but I've just found myself pondering on this sort of thing recently. So here's my take. First thing. An experience or product of some kind that treats your supporter like a consumer. Something that emotionally rewards them and virtually and/or physically manifests itself in the life of that person as an expression of your values and their relevance to them. Give them a platform to be themselves. I loved Adopt a Word from I CAN, for example. It gave me the chance to own something intangible, and spin out a few obvious material goods I could use to say something about myself. I know, it's obvious, but there aren't that many charities that do this. Second, and more importantly, a big idea. Lots of interesting people are exhorting brands in various to stand for something bigger. And I don't see why charities should be any different. How and why? Aren't charities already supposed to have a vision of something bigger? From what I can see, it's easy for lots of them to lose sight of it. Lots seem to confuse their cause (or maybe that's their day-to-day business) with the big idea that they stand for and defined them in the first place. In fact, they are often so preoccupied with talking about the need for support, they ten to express themselves in a negative way. They rarely talk about their vision. I've been banging on to anyone at work who will listen how Cancer Research UK don't talk about cancer, because in people's minds, that's a metonym for death. So they do the opposite. They own the idea of life. More charities could do a lot better (I think) by focusing on the idea that's the opposite of the problem they set out to solve. So (in my humble opinion) it's not the need to be addressed that should be at the heart of what they say. It's the belief in a better world. Now I also know that some have repositioned themselves in interesting (and expensive) ways - but failed to translate the visibility it gains them into extra support. But if those new creative platforms have created a much stronger sense of identity, can they really be wrong? Maybe it's the same old way they ask for support that's actually broken? (Pic courtesy of this person.)

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