Fundraising - Recruitment Strategies for Corporations & HNWIs

One of the biggest fundraising mistakes that social organisations make is chasing anyone who might potentially have some money, without really assessing whether or not their goals or interests fit the project.  This is why generic applications get nowhere, and why creating specific proposals often fails too. You absolutely must have some kind of selection criteria to filter the right organisations to approach, before you spend time on funding proposals.

The next mistake involves assuming that presenting the social need and tugging on heart strings is enough to get people (HNWI = High Net Worth Individuals) or organisations to part with their money. This is a hit and hope affair – you might get lucky, or you might not. The real trick is to understand what your target audiences needs are, then make sure you are actually able to deliver the benefits they might want from their association with your project, and finally, stay true to your promises.

Fundraising - Recruitment Strategies for Corporations & HNWIs

Above is a real life example of how to select your fundraising targets and then work out the benefits that might attract them. Once you understand these you can then create the messaging and marketing needed to attract them, and the engagement plans to manage the relationships over time.

Fundraising In A Nutshell

[Taken from my new blog @]

This is more for social enterprises and charities that are raising funds in order to continue to operate and/or grow rather than for startups.

The trick is to do these in parallel. Start your research and network to build relationships with potential funders, while simultaneously putting the platforms in place. This means that by the time you've built your relationships with the people interested in your work, you've also got all your messaging sorted out and ready to go.

Strategic Fundraising

Additional notes:
  • Networking = emails and conversations (phone and face-to-face meetings)
  • Recognition = not just for brand but also methodology in terms of getting accepted as experts in the type of work being done
  • Shareability = having the technical ability to share your content in social media, as well as creating and chunking it so that it is valuable and motivates people to pass it on.

Aviva Community Fund Competition - Vote now!

Round 3 of the Aviva Community Fund up in Canada is under way. The slogan of the competition is “Supporting what’s important to you”.

I've just been in touch with a great project called Charity CHAMPS, which is promoting microphilanthropy amongst youth, the most important, but least engaged demographic in philanthropy.

Also unlike a lot of the other ideas competing for votes, theirs has a fundamental online and micro-action foundation which there needs to be more of. Philanthropy needs to benefit from the huge changes in technology like every other industry.

If any of these things are important to you go vote for Charity CHAMPS at

Globosocial Adventures: Journeys into the Social Unknown

Over the past few years I've slowly been moving more and more towards a focus on social enterprise. Along the way I've worked on grassroots projects, run initiatives, joined and chaired charity boards and provided advisory help and input to social enterprises; all with the end goal of covering enough ground to be compelling as a consultant in the social space.

However, as I began to understand the UK social sector, I began to develop a curiosity about how things work in other parts of the world. How relevant is UK best practice to other regions? What impacts do different cultures and economies have on social and charitable enterprise? What new and exciting social innovations and approaches are budding in countries outside the western sphere?

Since there's only so much you can grasp from books and blogs, I figured the fastest and most effective way to build a global picture of social endeavour would be to travel through different countries working with social or charitable enterprises, helping address the challenges these organisations face.

So I am now traveling to different countries around the world, working with and understanding social enterprise in different cultures and economies. I'm interested in understanding cultural and economic impacts on the scope and success of social enterprises. My long term goal is to see if it is possible to design better global support systems for small social enterprises, and to improve the connectivity between people working to address similar social issues.

My first leg will be Central and South America, starting in Mexico City on the 12th of October 2009. The overall time-frame is unknown, but is expected to involve about 3 months per region, with 6 regions overall as listed a little further down.

My broad areas of focus will be as follows:
  • Challenges
  • Social innovations
  • Hybrid Business innovations
  • Local (Best) Practices
  • "Health-Check" Toolkits for Social Enterprises (based on
  • Funding mechanisms
  • Governmental Policy and Support
  • Working partnerships
  • Key social entrepreneurial hubs and networks
The basic methodology is simple and for every country visited will involve
  1. Spending a few weeks with 2 or more social enterprises, providing pro-bono generic consulting skills to help them address any organisational or developmental challenge they are facing (see skills profile below)
  2. Connecting with local arms of global SE umbrella organisations (eg. Ashoka) and local Social Enterprise or Third Sector support organisations
  3. Connecting with local Social Entrepreneurs

I am currently looking for
  1. Organisations that might be interested in commissioning comparative outputs
  2. Suggestions for local organisations that might need help in terms of advisory / guidance etc. in the following regions
    • South America
    • Africa
    • India
    • South East Asia
    • China
    • Japan
  3. Potential funding avenues / support with travel and accommodation costs

If you know any organisations that could use strategic help, or you want to be part of the journey, help fund me or simply provide connections, drop me an email at

If you want to follow the journey, visit the blog at or get email updates here.



Why Brand Recognition Matters for Social Enterprise

[Taken from my new blog @ - Click here to Update your feeds, or subscribe via email]

Here's a quick snapshot of how brand awareness impacts the different audiences for Social Enterprises, NGOs and Non-Profits.

If you ever wondered why your organisation should be devoting time to building mass recognition, this should clue you in.

Why Brand Awareness Matters for Social Enterprises

* HNWI = High Net-Worth Individuals (Philanthropists, Investors)

Why Social Enterprises Need Strong Brands

[Taken from my new blog @ - Click here to Update your feeds, or subscribe via email]

Having problems loading? View this presentation on Slideshare

Here's the jist of it...

A brand is what your audience feels , thinks , and remembers about your enterprise.

Brand used to be ‘ offline ’ and ‘ online ’ Now it is seamless , and primarily driven by how you are perceived via the web.

And now that organisations can create their own profiles , brands can effectively function as ‘ people ’ i.e. In the interactive web 2.0 world, your brand has a personality.

So… Brand used to just be about image, but now its about image AND personality!

Before the web, niche brands could only engage niche audiences. They relied on costly traditional PR and push marketing, which meant that their audiences were tiny and their budgets high. Now niche brands can engage mass audiences at low cost.

Social organisations sit in a niche that typically does not sell product. They are competing for attention. And when you're competing for attention, your competition is everything. You have to stand out to be noticed.

A strong brand is a core factor in being noticed, and therefore heard, which is why it critical for social organisations to get their branding right.

Project A - Journeys into the Social Unknown

[Taken from my new blog @ - please visit and update your feeds!]

Source for Butterfly design: Over the past few years I've slowly been moving more and more towards a focus on social enterprise. Along the way I've worked on grassroots projects, run initiatives, joined and chaired charity boards and provided advisory help and input to social enterprises; all with the end goal of covering enough ground to be compelling as a consultant in the social space.

However, as I began to understand the UK social sector, I began to develop a curiosity about how things work in other parts of the world. How relevant is UK best practice to other regions? What impacts do different cultures and economies have on social and charitable enterprise? What new and exciting social innovations and approaches are budding in countries outside the western sphere?

Since there's only so much you can grasp from books and blogs, I figured the fastest and most effective way to build a global picture of social endeavour would be to travel through different countries working with social or charitable enterprises, helping address the challenges these organisations face.

So here I am. A few years and much saving later, ready to make it happen. If you know any organisations that could use strategic help, or you want to be part of the journey, follow what I'm doing, help fund me or simply provide connections, drop me an email at

The plan so far is as follows:


Project Bio/Summary

I am planning a year's self funded journey to travel to different countries, working with and understanding social enterprise and social innovation in different cultures and economies. I'm interested in understanding the relevance of UK best practice in other contexts and also the cultural and economic impact on scope and success of social enterprises.

My broad areas of focus will be as follows:
  • Local (Best) Practices
  • Developing Global "Health-Check" Toolkits for Social Enterprises (based on
  • Governmental Policy and Support
  • Funding mechanisms
  • Business innovations
  • Social innovations
  • Challenges
  • Working partnerships
  • Similarities and differences with the UK model
  • Key social entrepreneurial hubs and networks
The basic methodology is simple and for every country visited will involve
  1. Spending a few weeks with 2 or more social enterprises, providing pro-bono generic consulting skills to help them address any organisational or developmental challenge they are facing (see skills profile below)
  2. Connecting with local arms of global SE umbrella organisations (eg. Ashoka) and local Social Enterprise or Third Sector support organisations
  3. Connecting with local Social Entrepreneurs
I am currently looking for
  1. Organisations that might be interested in commissioning comparative outputs
  2. Suggestions for local organisations that might need help in terms of advisory / guidance etc. in the following regions
    • East and South Africa
    • India
    • South East Asia
    • China
    • South America
  3. Potential funding avenues / support with travel and accommodation costs

My Skills Profile i.e. where I could help you or organisation:

Management and Social Enterprise consultant specialising in Financial Sustainability, Start-Up, Scaling and Business Models for Charities and Social Enterprises. Areas of focus include Strategic Development, Social Design, Business Model Innovation, Organisational Scaling & Transformation, Project Management, Raising Investment, Branding, Marketing & PR, Web 2.0 and Social Media.

Social experience and achievement includes direct involvement with grass roots projects covering issues ranging from youth exclusion to literacy, discrimination, conflict, civil rights and disabilities; advisory input to a wide range of charities and social enterprises; board membership as Chairman of the London charity BANG Edutainment and Director of the communications charity Imediate; and Fellowship of the Royal Society of Arts.

Commerical experience includes large scale management, technology and digital consulting; at Charteris and Conchango to the UK's top 100 Retail and Financial Services organisations; and strategic transformation and change at Logica to Government and the Public Sector.

More information @


5 Steps to Successful Free Websites for Social Enterprises

[Taken from my new blog @ - please visit and update your feeds!]

A year of working with different social startups and growing enterprises has highlighted one very unfortunate trend. Too many social entrepreneurs are wasting precious resource on building websites for their startups. If you're about to hand over a few thousand pounds to a designer somewhere to create you a logo or build you a few pages, STOP!! Read this first...

Here's a few key fundamentals you should grasp before we get started.
  • A Logo is NOT the same as a Brand.
    A brand is what your audience feels, thinks, and remembers about your enterprise. The logo is simply an iconic representation that should be able to adapt and change without affecting your brand. Define your brand first, then design the logo.

  • A Website is NOT just a set of Pages.
    It can be any web-space you control, which allows you to showcase what you stand for and what you do. In today's inter-connected Web 2.0 world, you must think of websites as broad linkages of organisational content on multiple platforms, in multiple conversations and in multiple contexts. Whatever 'website' you have must therefore function as a content sharer/aggregator allowing subscription (RSS) and interaction (commenting), and NOT just as pages or brochureware (HTML).

  • A Blog is NOT different from a Website.
    It is simply a type of website with rich content management features and the ability for readers to automatically subscribe to content and updates. You can easily use a blog as your organisational website with the various pages as linked articles.
That cleared up, here's the 5 steps you need to follow
  1. Make sure your mission is simple (memorable), clear (followable) and focused (accurate). If it's open, vague, or all-encompassing, then rewrite it.

  2. Develop your brand in a way that makes it a key strategy for achieving your mission, and NOT just as a marketing tool.

  3. Focus on creation of content worth sharing, and focus on categories that support your organisation's mission and vision.

  4. Use your branding to define how you present this content in terms of tone, style and use of visuals.

  5. Use FREE blogging platforms on which to build your new 'website'. Don't spend a penny on building it. You may have to compromise a little on layout, but you gain so much in richness and flexibility for zero cost that the trade-off is a no-brainer. I recommend blogger for your website and Ning for your community.

If this makes sense but you're still a little unclear about how to put it into practice, feel free to contact me for a chat. Drop me a line at

3 Reasons Why Your Great Idea Doesn't Yet Exist

Image source =[Taken from my new blog @ - please visit and update your feeds!]

I've recently had a number of people with ideas for startups come to me for advice on how to get these ideas going. In each case the idea has appeared to plug a perceived need in the market, suggesting a no-brainer that the 'inventor' is therefore about to take risks to pursue.

After a little investigation however, I'm usually able to find equivalents that already exist, or good reasons for why it's not already being done. So I always urge caution, as there are some obvious reasons why an idea you've had does not already appear to exist
  1. You haven't done your research properly.
    This is by far and away the primary reason people think their idea is unique. Don't just search for the most obvious term that reflects your idea. Look for words and phrases that mean something similar. Also look for news or releases that suggest that something similar is already under development.

  2. Someone has thought of it, looked at all the angles and decided the ROI isn't worth it.
    This is also very likely. Stay wary of your idea until you've covered these bases yourself. If the idea requires set up and development well outside your personal areas of expertise, you should know that many ideas that seem entirely obvious to the naive, often involve prohibitive execution, set up and development, or simply don't have the scale of market first imagined.

  3. Someone thought of it, built it, and it failed.
    Lots of companies, services and products come and go. Don't just focus on things that are out there. Make sure you've checked if anyone has tried it before and failed. Investigate why they weren't successful and be honest about whether or not you are really likely to do better.
Finally, if you get past all of the above you are in the fantastic position of being confident that no one has thought of it. Yes it's rare, but it happens. Protect your IP and get busy!

3 Reasons Why Finding Equivalents Shouldn't Stop You

On the other hand, just because products or services exist, doesn't mean that you should drop your idea right away for the following reasons
  1. The market has already been primed and created (just make sure it isn't saturated).
  2. You can easily evaluate what does and doesn't work, and you might thus be able to improve on existing products and services.
  3. You could go niche in terms of design or target market, and focus on developing a specific variant of the idea instead.

The Urban Survival Project is Closing

After a year and a half of development and evolution, what started out as The Urban Survival Project has finally changed so significantly that it is time to move on.

The core idea of USP itself evolved into a broader wikipedia-esque volunteering platform called iVolntr, for which I never really found a suitable funder and thus has largely been parked as a project. The blog too has shifted from a focus on the development of these projects into one that primarily provides ideas, help and advice for developing social enterprises. Finally I too have moved from being a part-time pro-bono advisor and mentor to social start-ups, into a full time participant in the global social development movement. I quit commercial work in April and now work solely with social and charitable enterprises.

The upshot is that I feel it is time to focus more on dedicated advice for social enterprises, and so I've created a new blog called "Social Effect". I will keep both blogs going in parallel for a little while but from October this blog will only contain updates on USP/iVolntr, while the other one will move forward as my primary blog on social enterprise.

If you've found my posts useful, please add the new feed to your readers and inboxes. Here are the links

Thanks for all the support and readership over the past year or so. Hope to see you at the new blog @

Community Communications 101

I recently had a very illuminating chat with Caroline Jaine, the Director of imediate, around community communications so I thought I'd share some of what I learnt.

  1. Always start with a clear strategy
  2. Followed by an implementation plan, and
  3. Finally outcome monitoring 

Key point:  Do NOT just rush into comms activity. There are lots of risks and sensitivities, and consequently these programmes often fail. Plan first! 

The following are the key steps in developing communications for social change. 

Comms Strategy

  1. Gain clarity of purpose first, by validating the overall mission that the comms fits into.
    • Research community and environmental factors for insights into what the real problem is and what is realistically achievable.
    • Identify and understand risks, and develop clear mitigation strategies.
  2. Comms strategies are about behaviour change, so
    • Identify the specific behaviours that need to change.
    • Use it to define and focus on the correct target audience.
  3. Identify approaches and ways you might change these behaviours
    • Identify key points of influence
    • Identify the key channels of influence and communication
    • Define key themes and messages
  4. Evaluate how the audiences perceive the communications provider. 
  5. Use these insights to identify the most credible person/organisation/partners/network to provide the message. This is the basis of psychological operations, which are as follows
    • White - Communicator takes direct ownership of and association with comms.
    • Grey - Comms are provided with no direct ownership.
    • Black - Comms are attributed to a third party without their knowledge. Unethical and not recommended.

Comms programme creation and delivery

  1. Know what you have to work with
    • Assess budget
    • Assess resource
    • Assess potential partners for delivery
  2. Define timelines
  3. Define success criteria
  4. Create implementation plan

Post Implementation

  1. Monitor success
  2. Maintain relationships

(For more on community communications keep up with Caroline's thoughts on the imediate blog.)

20 Keys to Building a Successful Social Organisation

Over the past few years I've looked at problems faced by a number of different social organisations, including new startups, developing organisations, and fully established ones. I typically see one common underlying factor; many of the issues stem from a failure to define some key points with the clarity and simplicity needed to make those definitions useful.

Before we continue, let me just say that this is not going to be one of those articles with 20 tenets or pieces of pithy advice. It is about 20 key things that you can and should work out for your social organisation.

At its core, everything I outline below can all be summarised into one overall key to success...


Until you define your key points of focus, your limited funds and resources are continually wasted on attempts to cover all bases and do too many things. You end up with a Brownian motion of people’s activities; lots of ad-hoc decisions made around on a host of assumptions. It all heads in one general social direction, but with a lot of wastage and pain along the way. Prioritising becomes impossible and core platforms of long term development get missed. Over time, this leads to many of the problems and fire-fighting that social organisations face.

Here’s my list of 20 key things all social organisations should have written down.

  1. Mission
    The real reason you set up.

  2. Goals
    What you want to achieve & How.

  3. Potential Revenue Streams
    Split into core, supplemental and potential revenue. Think business model innovation.
    • Strategy for long term Financial Sustainability.
    • Core revenue – Grants, donations, and products or services you charge for.
    • Supplemental revenue (opportunities for monetising your organisational brand, IP, audience and assets).

  4. Target Audience
    • Groups that you’re trying to impact.
       Primary, secondary and tertiary.
       Outline needs of each group.
    • Recruitment strategies.
    • Long term value for beneficiaries.

  5. Services & Offerings
    Make sure they are what your audience really needs, and not simply what you can or want to offer.
    • Core.
    • Peripheral.

  6. SWOT Outline
    i.e. A quadrant grid showing Strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats.

  7. Vision
    Where you plan to be in the Short, Medium and Long Term.
    • Realistic short-term (1yr).
    • Challenging medium-term (3yr).
    • Inspirational long-term (5-10yr).
    All your strategies must work towards this long-term vision. You must know how your org can best act as a springboard for long term value to the individual or community.

  8. Development Strategy /Roadmap Plans
    These need to be created specifically to achieve the vision – ideally for a 3yr timeframe. Include yearly changes for organisation size and structure, development focus, and revenue needed.

  9. Cost/Revenue models
    These must directly fit your roadmaps.
    • Detailed costs of services inclusive of all overheads.
    • Profit margins over and above cost. It is surprising how often organisations get profit assumptions completely wrong.
    • Cost / Revenue grouping for ongoing comparison.
    • Realistic funding needed and how it will be distributed.

  10. Risks and Mitigations
    Growth and Development challenges & how you’re going to address them.

  11. Plans for ensuring long term value to your end audience
    For example, alumni community platforms to enable interaction and ongoing engagement between beneficiaries.

  12. Competitors and Similar Organisations
    Regionally and globally (now that we’re all connected by the web, you are competing for recognition, funding and audience with organisations from all over the world). Knowing these can also help you build great collaborations and make a bigger difference (see 16).

  13. Unique Selling Points & Differentiators
    If you don’t have any, make sure you create them. Without these there is no good reason for funders to pick you over the myriad organisations out there.

  14. Potential Funders
    • Identify sectors and prioritise – typically
       Corporate CSR,
       Commercial Brands that want the association,
       Trusts,
       Government,
       Individuals,
       Community.
    • Identify specific targets.
    • Identify what value they would gain from being associated with your org (conversely rethink what you do to ensure that funders get clear value from their engagement with you).

  15. Framework for displaying Social Return on Investment (SROI)

  16. Support Networks
    Organisations that you could partner / affiliate with:
    • Social sector funders and developmental organisations
    • Charities and NGOs
    • Other organisations doing similar things – collaborating is a very fast way of scaling your outcomes and your reach.

  17. Targets & Performance Management
    Anything you’re trying to develop must involve something to aim for. Your vision roadmap should essentially define your targets for you.
    • Short term activity targets that roll up into long-term impacts.
    • Strategies or mechanisms for monitoring long-term impacts. In the long run this is going to be your best selling point for raising investment and support.

  18. Brand Strategy
    Brand associations drive both individual and corporate engagement.
    • What image and personality you want to project
    • Core themes and messaging

  19. Marketing & PR Strategy
    • Channels you’re going to focus on
    • Messaging
    • How you plan to involve/engage press media (online and offline)

  20. Community & Social Media Strategies
    The web is now ubiquitous and a global connector for communities. It can also drive funding and support from sources you never dreamed you could access. Social media refers to the free and open platforms that already have huge connected audiences, like Facebook, Twitter, Ning and Youtube. All you have to do is surf the wave.
    • Plans for building global and regional support communities using the web
    • Social media strategy
       Social media platforms and goals for each
       Codes of engagement and responsible resource

Once understood and defined, many of these points of focus roll into one another and can be prioritised, developed and managed with very little effort. You don’t have to be gung-ho and try and get everything achieved in one massive effort. Social issues are typically long term and have few quick fixes. As a social organisation you should be planning to be around for a long time so continual small steps in a clear direction are often all you need to be successful in the long run.

For each key driver, the trick is to avoid lots of words or huge business plan style documents that cannot be easily read or updated. Instead aim to have single PowerPoint slides or 1 pagers with short descriptions or a list of bullets that clarifies the essence of what you’re trying to achieve. Do NOT waste time debating semantics or making it perfect. Just brainstorm what you know, identify the gaps and dedicate some time to defining the answers. All you need is enough to provide clear direction and some decent guidelines for ongoing decision making.

Always think practical and focus on communicating simply and effectively. Check the following:
  1. Can the definitions be used by people within your organisation?
  2. Can they be reviewed and updated easily?
If the answer is no, make them simpler. Here are some 1 page outputs that you can easily pass around, stick up on walls, and review on a running basis...

  • Mission, Strategy, Tactics Pyramid.
  • 3 year Vision and Strategy Roadmap.
  • SWOT grid
  • High Level Stakeholder Analysis (covers audience, funders, support networks).
  • Summarised Cost vs Revenue Charts.
  • USPs.
Create a review point every 6 months, plan in the resource and effort to make sure it happens, and away you go!

If you want help with any of this drop me a line and I’ll talk you through it.

3 Types of Partnership For the Social Sector

In my previous post on whether Partnerships and Collaboration might save the third sector, I suggested that one reason why small charities are failing is the nucleation of the sector caused by self interest in raising funding. However, beyond a point they all have the same collective goal, which is to effect positive social change. Unlike businesses which are just out for themselves, this commonality of higher purpose means that charities and social enterprises are perfectly placed to cooperate and collaborate to survive.

I see 3 forms of partnership that are immediately viable for most small social organisations, none of which are being fully explored

  1. Sharing operational costs and services
  2. Collaborating with competitors to develop better and larger scale joint-propositions
  3. Developing complementary partnerships with non-competitors to reach new audiences

Type 1: Shared Services

One of the biggest problems that small organisations have, especially when transitioning into the mid-sized space, is covering the cost of operational overheads
  • Physical space
  • Human Resources and Payroll
  • Finance and Accounting
  • Marketing & PR
You've got 3 options here.
  1. Outsource all these activities, but not to multiple consultancies or commercial companies like some charities do, but to some kind of Shared-Service Centre dedicated to centralising and performing activities that don't really need much flexibility in decision making - like for example Payroll, Production of marketing materials, Execution of marketing campaigns, Street Fundraising, and Raising awareness through Social Media.

    A few years ago when I was consulting to Public Sector, there was a huge drive to get local governments to band together and exploit shared service centres for exactly these reasons. Improved efficiency and effectiveness.

    However, unless I'm missing something, I don't think anything like this exists for the social sector, which means that right now there's a gap in the market. I suspect that the reason for this is not that there isn't a viable business model here, but that no-one's really invested time in taking the idea to execution. I'm sure this service could be set up as a Charity so that fees do not become prohibitive, and I don't imagine it would be too hard to raise government funding to set it up either.

    A point to note here is that one of the issues with outsourcing or sharing back office functions in the UK lies in tax (thanks Cliff for pointing this out). The Government actively encourages charities to collaborate to reduce cost, but the VAT system penalises those that do. If one charity supplies services to another it has to charge VAT on the supply, and the charity paying for the services cannot recover this. Apparently there is a lobby to get the Government to address this disincentive to efficiency but extending the Charity VAT exemption appears to be a no go zone for Treasury. All things considered however, I'd still suggest that even with the 15% VAT, charities could see benefits from sharing/outsourcing their operational costs.

  2. The other option is to set up a collective of local charities and social enterprises, and for the collective to either share resource, or co-fund and set up an equivalent shared service centre with dedicated teams that perform these functions. These organisations will gain from efficiencies in use of space, resource, and shared best practice and if they take a risk and trust each other the way they should, it will simultaneously create a space for cross-fertilisation of ideas.

  3. If you're starting up a social organisation, or are about to grow/scale yours, plan your restructure to split out your operational functions. Create a new revenue stream by using your team to offer these services to other smaller charitable and social organisations. It requires some strategic thinking and sensible management, but is neither as difficult or as complicated as it sounds. You may even be able to raise funding to offer this service.

Type 2: Joint Offerings with Competitors

Any social issue you're trying to address will have other organisations that do similar things to you. Typically you're going to compete with them for the pots of funding out there. However there really is little or no reason for this. If you're all working together to effect the same greater good, you've immediately got a clear commonality of purpose. If you collaborated and pooled your skills and resources you might be able to achieve much bigger things.

A collaborative network of organisations driving towards the same goal is significantly more powerful than a disparate group of small entities all pulling in different directions. Imagine how much more funding you would attract as an industry, rather than as single companies.

So instead of pumping money into Marketing and PR and networking to make your profile stand out from the competition, you should be putting your energies into building relationships and working protocols with other organisations like yourselves so you can set up joint propositions and pitch for bigger funding.

This is not a short-termist approach. It takes time and needs learning. Start by building relationships and connections with your 'competitors', and create forums or events where you talk and find out about each other. Focus on building trust. Find one other organisation that does what you do, and then pitch for larger projects and funding together. Evaluate and learn from your experiences, and then grow your network. At some point you will have created the basic framework that allows you to rapidly add new connections, and to help them slot in easily.

Be aware that there will be challenges you should expect to face, including

  • Trust
  • Personal and organisational egos
  • Contractual and legal definitions around distribution of finance and delivery of outputs
  • Programme management challenges across organisational boundaries
  • Quality control

Type 3: Complementary Partnerships

There are two sub-types here. One is complementary partnerships in a causal chain and the other involves partnerships to improve the impact and quality of services offered.

  1. Full Chain (End-to-End) Partnerships are particularly useful for organisations that offer niche services, or focus on a particular aspect of a bigger social problem. What typically happens, is that as niche organisations grow, they keep trying to add the offerings that are needed to create the broad impact they really want, instead of looking for ways to plug the gaps more efficiently.

    Taking the issue of youth social exclusion for example, the journey from exclusion to successful reintegration within the system involves transition through and from social care, into learning, and finally successful employment and stability. The learning bit alone involves literacy, numeracy, life skills, specialist skills, and entrepreneurial skills and ranges from drop-ins to accreditation. A plethora of organisations exist that support different bits of the chain, and yet they often work in isolation from each other, or try and grow to cover the entire spectrum.

    A better approach is to identify and build relationships with organisations that aren't your direct competitors. Similar logics and challenges apply as in the previous point, but this is easier because you don't have a history of direct competition. Plugging each other's gaps will help you create broader, more compelling services and pooling together will make you significantly more effective across the board.

  2. Gap Partnerships are ones where you look for ways to improve the quality and effectiveness of what you do by teaming up with organisations that have a complementary focus, products, services or skills that save you from having to employ or develop them yourselves. You can offer each other all sorts of value, from access to different audiences to new skills and capabilities and most crucially, credibility through association.

    This form of partnership is particularly applicable to connecting and working with commercial organisations that are interested in your target audience, or could gain brand kudos through their association with your social cause. Their involvement may include financial support, access to commercial networks and platforms, specialist skills, operational services or progression pathways.

    The trick for social organisations is to identify and develop their audiences, services and brand image in a way that makes them attractive to other organisations. Note that contrary to assumption, this has no correlation with compromising core purpose, and typically is only achievable by staying focused to the social cause and social outcomes.

Could Partnerships And Collaboration Save The Third Sector?

In a recent post on whether the Retail Industry Could Save Itself Using Game Theory I discussed how retailers have exhibited classic non-cooperative behaviour, which has significantly damaged their abilities to survive the credit crunch. By focusing only on individual interest and survival, their collective hyper-competitive actions have likely damaged their entire industry's market size.

The charity sector is becoming similarly nucleated by self interest in raising funding. In my previous post on Small Charities Struggling To Survive The Crunch I discussed reasons why small charities are struggling to adapt in the current climate. What I didn't go into is the fact that there is a plethora of small and mid-sized organisations out there, all competing against each other for diminishing funding, and this is only accelerating their slide towards closure.

The trouble is that the funding they are competing for tends to be governmental or Trust based, or small scale social funding for Social Enterprises. This is because their small sizes mean that they struggle to tap into large scale CSR philanthropy or investment, because their brand recognition and localised outcomes are too negligible to return any associative value back to big corporations. The top 400 UK organisations handed out nearly half a billion pounds in 2008, and small charities and social enterprises probably saw very little of it.

However there is no need for things to be this way. More than commercial industries, the social sector is perfectly placed to cooperate and collaborate to survive. Partnerships can help reduce costs and increase the scale of funding that can be accessed. More importantly however, they can create connected support networks and buffers to keep each other going through difficult periods.

As the Chair of a medium sized youth charity, I can see potential in 3 forms of Partnership that could save many small charities and social enterprises from going under over the next few years.

  1. Sharing operational costs and services
  2. Collaborating with competitors to develop better and larger scale joint-propositions
  3. Developing complementary partnerships with non-competitors to reach new audiences

I'll discuss these in more detail in my next post on the 3 Types of Partnership

Small Charities are Struggling to Survive The Crunch

Children England, the umbrella group for children's charities just published results of a survey of small charities (under £250,000). Turns out 4 out of 10 are now in a vulnerable state and could be facing closure if their fundings don't come through. This is up from 1 in 10 in 2007, which is a clearly indictment of the current situation.

Unfortunately this is something I'd predicted a little while ago in my post "Will Charities Survive The Credit Crunch?"

The charities closer to this size are feeling it worst. It's a problem I'm seeing with BANG Edutainment too. The underlying issue that the funding needed directly reflects operating costs, which are based on contracted outputs or services. Raising funding in the quarter to half million bracket is very hard right now, because typically it relies on lots of small sources rather than one massive one. If even a small number of the sources of funding are impacted by the credit crunch it means that operating costs cannot be met and without the reserves of profit making organisations, debts pile up very fast.

Scaling down unfortunately is not as easy as you might imagine either. To do this in advance of a financial crisis requires significant strategic pessimism; which commercial organisations typically dont have, let alone charitable ones. If you haven't already anticipated problems, the tightly stretched capacity of charities means that there is little or no room to adapt, and their close knit nature means that letting staff go is an absolutely last ditch choice; one that is usually held off in the hope of new funding coming through and rarely made until its too late. The result is a pile up of salary, overheads and tax debts by this point, leaving the organisation little option but to close.

A survival strategy that is not being considered carefully enough by many small charities is partnerships. I'll discuss these in more detail in my next post.

Future Trends in Social Enterprise

In my previous post I talked about Social Enterprise Trends to expect in 2009. I outlined 5 key ones:

  1. Rise in social startups and skills available to the sector
  2. Higher expectations from funders
  3. More support for big ideas
  4. More partnerships and collectives
  5. Blurring of lines between Charities and Social Enterprises
The trends outlined below however, are not time-boxed to just 2009. These are shifts I believe will happen at some point between now and the next few years, and are therefore worth considering in your future planning.

Future Trends in Social Enterprise - 2009 onwards

  1. Disruptive innovations will continue to flourish as commercial sector skills are turned towards solving social problems.

  2. Social innovation from the developing world will begin to drive developed world commercial innovation. We are already seeing this in the way western banks are looking at micro-loans and telecoms firms are looking at mobile payment systems.

  3. Corporate Social Responsibility departments will have to adapt and revise their policies, because social enterprises are redefining the parameters of giving and support as they continue to effect major social change.

  4. Increasing pressure on social sector to become business viable will result in more social startups emerging as social enterprises rather than charities.

  5. Charities on the other hand will get smarter in their trading setups, further confusing the definition of Social Enterprise.

  6. As the Green movement embeds further into the global cultural psyche, both social enterprises and charities will face increasing expectation to be green just to be credible.

  7. Social Enterprise will mobilise more people to enter the social sector by making it more competitive, responsive and modernised.

  8. The CIC will start to come into its own, and will evolve into a more viable organisational definition.

  9. As more organisations begin to deliver both financial return and social change, a more practical measurements of Social Return On Investment will arise. Over time we should expect to see clear standardisations of SROI for comparative purposes.

  10. As SROI measurement standardises we should see increasing numbers of Social VC's, philanthropists or Trusts whose funding has social conditions. Some of these currently exist, but regardless of their mission statements, returns are still predominantly measured on financial profits or ability to repay these social loans and investments.

  11. New business models monetising social need will continue to arise, as social entrepreneurs look to innovate under pressure of financial difficulty and social demand.

  12. If social collaboration really does take off, we should also see an increase in collaborative shared services that let small social enterprises and charities focus on their core goals without worrying about peripheral activities like HR, accounting and fundraising.

  13. As the social sector evolves down the commercial route, and as more commercial sector staff enter the social space, the general quality of skills expected from CEO's and managers is going to increase.

  14. Consequently I'd expect a trend towards higher wages for nonprofit workers as demands cause skills profiles to increase.

  15. Finally we should also expect to see more courses and better training for social entrepreneurs, with something like the IOMBA specifically for social entrepreneurs.

Social Enterprise Trends 2009

Every January people typically start to wonder what's coming up in the year ahead for their industries. The social enterprise and the non-profit sectors are no different. It's just that fewer people publish anything of value, mostly because these sectors are not awash with analysts in the way the private sector is. Anyway in case you're curious, here's my thoughts on where things might be headed for social enterprise.

Let's start with immediate trends to expect in 2009. Most of these are inevitably going to be defined by the impact of the credit crunch and the increasing ubiquity and impact of the social web.

5 Trends in Social Enterprise for 2009

  1. Rise in social startups and skills available to the sector.

    Increasing numbers of highly skilled private sector employees are being made redundant, and many of these are looking for ways to keep their skills sharp and occupy themselves positively and productively. Some will join the existing wave of social and third sector enterprises, and others will take the entrepreneurial route. I'm seeing this trend already with one of the charities I'm involved with.

  2. Higher expectations from funders

    As the markets suffer and investments fail or continue to provide lower returns, many of the large trusts and social funders will rapidly find their liquid funds diminishing. While I doubt this will stop them continuing their missions, I would in turn expect them to become significantly more focused on quality and viability of financial and social return.

  3. More support for big ideas

    As social enterprises continue to leverage the web and mobile to effect social change, social funders like UnLtd will have to start catering for big ideas rather than simply grass roots start ups. Google has already upped the ante with its Project 10^100.

  4. More partnerships and collectives

    These should emerge as more forward thinking Social Entrepreneurs look for ways to partner together to stay afloat in the face of financial pressures. I'd expect to start seeing more collectives like the Hub bringing small startups together, and more web services dedicated to letting groups collaborate.

  5. Blurring of lines between Charities and Social Enterprises

    We already know social enterprise is blurring lines between the profit and not-for-profit sectors, but the rise in success of social enterprise in both social and financial terms is also increasing the pressure on more and more charities to become financially sustainable through commercial revenue streams. Conversely I'd expect to see a number of social enterprises abandon their financial goals under pressure of the credit crunch, and look to use their social impact to gain charitable status in order to survive.

(Note: I've explored some more trends in Social Enterprise in my post Future Trends in Social Enterprise, which covers developments to expect beyond 2009.)

Google Needs More Time For Project 10^100

Those of us who put in our ideas for the Google 10^100 funding project were hoping to hear back about the shortlist at the end of January. I hadn't heard anything so I assumed didn't make the cut, but thought I'd better check anyway. Turns out it's not over yet :)

Here's the official word from Google...

"Thank you to everyone who submitted an idea. We received over 100,000!

Due to the enthusiastic response we received, it's taking us longer than we expected to review all the ideas. Come back on March 17th to help vote for your favorite idea."

If you want a reminder to go back and vote on the 17th, you can pop your email address in here

What's in Store For Social Enterprise in 2009?

As far as I can see, in the UK at least we're entering year two in the growth of social enterprise. Before 2008 I'm sure there were plenty of organisations doing good things sustainably, but the concept of social enterprise really seems to have become mainstream in 2008.

CICs are becoming more common, the concept of Social Return on Investment started to take hold, different models of Social Enterprise were identified, and we even saw the release of a new Self Assessment Framework for Social Enterprise. I no longer see discussions in the blogosphere around what Social Enterprise is and whether it is doing social things sustainably or making money with social or community benefits. I think that's been cleared up as closer to the former... "Enterprises effecting positive social change, independently and sustainably".

I reckon Social Enterprise will continue to embed as a way of life in 2009, and both new social startups and existing charities will feel increasing pressure to set up financially sustainable operations. I also reckon we're going to see more organisations leveraging the web to effect social change. In combination it feels like we're heading towards an exciting and dynamic future in the social space, where we're able to innovate without being dependent on hand-outs.

For me too, 2009 feels like it might be an interesting one. I got involved with a lot of different things in 2008, all of which have possibilities ahead. First and most importantly the Urban Survival Project, which evolved into for which I'm still hoping to hear back from Google around the results of their 10^100 funding project. We hear back at the end of Jan, and even if iVolntr doesn't make the shortlist I will start a more dedicated effort to get the Google Foundation behind it, or maybe see if I can exploit the new networks available to me through the Fellowship to the RSA I was offered a couple of months ago.

Having managed to raise the funding needed to stave off insolvency, I'm also expecting to be heavily involved with the development of BANG Edutainment and BANG Radio for the next couple of months. Finally if things get worse with the credit crunch and I get signed off, there's always the possibility of getting involved with the development of social enterprise in Thailand or maybe even India with Trn Labs or UnLtd India.

So all in all, the future's looking bright, and here's to a top year ahead. Hope you're having a good start to 2009 wherever you are!!

Will Charities Survive The Credit Crunch?

I recently wrote a post on whether or not social enterprises would survive the credit crunch, where I suggested that many would pull through as I believe the crunch will only help drive social innovation faster. It will embed the recognition that we have to be able to help each other, and create not just environmentally sustainable businesses, but also financially sustainable ones.

Unfortunately I'm not sure this ability to survive will extend to charities that are entirely dependent on individual, organisational or governmental funding.

Charities often start small and very community focused. Their goal is clear and staff voluntarily make it happen. They have a small number of funders, if any. At this stage they are agile and able to cope with change easily.

But as they get recognised, other people and bodies become interested and the charity starts raising more funds to increase the scale and quality of their impact. The organisation thus solidifies and formalises, and their ability to adapt and control their own destiny decreases – in a large part due to the way they have to be set up.

In the UK, Charities differ from commercial organisations in that they are exempt from all taxes except VAT. However, the tax structures for charities means that they cannot engage in any overtly commercial activity as profits made will become taxable and, at worst, the organisation may lose its charitable status altogether.

Members also cannot take any benefits and no dividends can be paid to them. Any funds must be applied for charitable purposes only, and if it is wound up, the funds must be transferred to another charity.

In small charities, this classically drives organisational and human structures that do not look to create or exploit commercial revenue streams even though they often have a range of intellectual and physical assets that can be monetised. At some point in the growth cycle, incoming funds stop adequately covering operational cost, and from then on it becomes an ongoing battle to raise money to survive. The social imperative of the organisation starts becoming secondary to the need to raise money.

What the organisation achieves starts becoming driven by what likely funders are looking for, rather than the core social impact it was set up to make. Over a period of time this often results in a dispersion of activity and diminished quality of outcomes - lots of small impacts rather than any major core difference. The diminished quality of outcomes then adversely affects the ability to raise funding, and alongside growing operational costs, forces the charity further into the spiral of doing whatever it can to raise money to survive.

Now that we're faced with environmental recession, the negative impact on grants and funds available might just mean that a lot of medium sized charities will simply go under as their funding dries up and they run out of revenue streams.

The sad part is that this does not have to happen. There are ways that charities can commercially generate their own revenue through the use of trading subsidiaries. I’ll explore this further in my next post, along with some thoughts on the need for new charitable structures that automatically work this way, rather than being designed to exploit structural loopholes.

The 15 Best Free Tools for Bloggers in 2008

After a year of blogging, I've come across some fantastic free add-ons that really add richness to your blog. Also after having set up a couple of wordpress blogs, I think I can now safely recommend Blogger as the better bet for novices with ambition. Wordpress is probably more customisable, but only if you install software on your machine and know how to code. For anyone who wants it easy and painless, Blogger is the way forward!

Anyway here's my favourite applications. There's a couple more than 15, but I'm sure you can forgive that! They're all very easy to add, and you can see them all in action on this blog if you look hard enough :)

Best Free Add-Ons

  1. Disqus - really improves the way your comments are displayed, managed and tracked. The best part is that it allows people to reply to specific comments in a thread, rather than the terrible linear approach that all standard blog platforms use. They also give you a cute "recent comments" widget you can use. Click on the comments link below this post to check out Disqus in action.

  2. Dipity - creates you a visual timeline of all your blog posts and lets users read and flick through them within the timeline. Very cool. If you scroll to the bottom of this page you can see it in action.

  3. Odiogo - automatically converts your blog posts into audio podcasts and lets readers listen to your posts, download them as MP3 or subscribe via their iPods. American accent aside, the speech conversion is unexpectedly good and convincing. You can try it out using the link just below the title of this post, or from the subscription links on the right.

  4. Lijit - provides a very useful search box for your blog with a better display of results and suggestions for alternatives than the standard search provided on most free blogs. It also allows you to track and monitor what people have been searching for on your site. You can test it out in the box on the right of this post.

  5. Feedburner - is easily the best blog support out there. It is the best way to manage and track all your subscribers and ensures that you never lose your audience if you decide to change your blog address. It also allows your readers to subscribe via email, and add your posts to social bookmarking sites. Finally and most importantly it gives you all the stats you need to monitor your blog's development. See the 'Subscribe via Email' box on the right, and all the sharing links below this post for Feedburner in action.

  6. Blogcatalog - provides a 'News Feed' widget that allows you to highlight all your shared web activity, including posts from multiple blogs, dugg items, delicious items etc. Check it out in action about halfway down the right column of this blog.

  7. Sharethis - gives you that cool drop down with links to bookmarking sites that your users can use to share your content with their friends or networks. Check it out just below this post.

Best Free Platforms and Services

  1. Facebook Notes - allows you to import your RSS feed into Facebook, which not only lets your friends read your blog from your profile, but also allows you to tag specific people that you'd like to share different posts with.

  2. Twitterfeed - automatically tweets your post titles on twitter, letting your followers know when you've posted new content. It's pretty cool because it basically keeps your Twitter account active even if you never bother to sign in or update it yourself. Check it out in action here

  3. Slideshare - is one of my favourite sites, and contains fantastic presentations on anything you ever wanted to know. For bloggers though it is the best place to upload your own presentations so that others can embed and share the content wherever they please. Here's an example of a presentation on Socialising Intelligence shared on this blog taken from my Slideshare space.

  4. Scribd - allows you to upload documents you want to share, and then embed them wherever you want in a way that allows readers to scroll through the document directly through your blog. Here's an example of Scribd in action on my work blog.

  5. Youtube - allows you to create your own public channels for your videos, and then provides you with the code to post, embed and share the videos wherever you want. Like with docs and presentations, uploading directly to your blog means that others outside your blog cannot find or share your content. Here's an example on my blog - - Concept Video streamed from the Urban Survival Project Youtube Channel.

  6. Feed Analysis 1.1 - is a very cool online application that graphically displays all your traffic and usage results, using your feedburner URL. You don't need to sign up or anything, just pop your feed into the box provided and away you go.

  7. The Blog Readability Test - is a great way of checking and monitoring the readability of your blog. All you have to do is pop your URL in and it figures it out for you. Unlike all the other tests and tools, it actually tells you the level of comprehension your audience will need to stay engaged. High school levels of readability are the way forward if you want people to easily get what you're blogging about. I must admit it's not easy though! If your post's readability is too high, here's an online test that will help you identify the sentences that are too complicated.

Best Free Bits of Code For Your Template

  1. Related Posts - lists the last few articles that have the same category tags to the post being read, and is really useful for driving traffic to older posts. Here's an example of how it looks, below my last post.

  2. Tag Clouds - are a cool way to display the tags on your blog. Frankly I doubt they really get used much, but they're a nice alternative to a list of categories, and make your blog look that little bit more Web 2.0! You can see this bit of code in action in the right column, just below the subscribe links.

Best Free Installable Software and Plug-Ins

  1. Blogger Backup Utility - is the best backup software I've seen for free online blog platforms. You just input your blog username and password and it downloads every single post individually into a folder on your PC. You'll never have to worry about your blog crashing or migrating to a new platform. Get the latest release here.

  2. Zemanta - is a cool browser add-on that automatically analyses your words as you write a post, and then provides you with linked articles and related images that might be helpful.


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