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February 23, 2020 6 min read

 

“In necessary things, unity – in doubtful things, liberty – in all things, charity.”

(Richard Baxtor, english poet, 1615-1691)

Those who want to change the world must ask themselves a number of questions. How do I transform the dream of helping others into a functioning business? And how does my charitable organisation get the publicity it needs to become successful? Good questions to which there are surprising answers!

If charities fighting environmental pollution were as successful as companies like Apple, Google or Coca-Cola selling their products then the problem would be solved by now. Yet we are actually far from this level of success. In many cases their efforts remain a mere drop in the bucket. Why is that?

Goals like the fight against poverty and hunger or the preservation of rainforests and endangered species are so gigantic in scale that the organisations fighting for these causes would themselves – like Apple or Amazon – need to generate gigantic financial and human resources to come anywhere close to their stated mission goals. But wouldn’t it be cool to hear that a charitable organisation dealing with the problem of plastic-pollution in our oceans one day would be able to tell the world: Ok, guys, we did it! The oceans are clean – check!

Capitalist double standards

It might come as a surprise to many: the only thing that is really stopping charitable organizations from growing and developing is us. More specific: it’s the way we think about charity and how it functions. Think about this: when a normal enterprise like Burger King wants to sell fatty snacks to the world or a tech-giant wants to sell a new smartphone every year to make profit then this is applauded in our capitalist system and no problem at all. What is a problem apparently is charities wanting to do the same and make profits too. The dominating ideology says: those who become rich with charity or produce profit from it are somehow suspect.

And this thinking is exactly the problem. If we’d look at charities the same way we look at normal companies then these charities would be as big and successful today as Microsoft or McDonalds – and they’d be incredibly effective in changing the world for the better. In fact our false ethical ideas stand in the way of this happening. A study done in 2002 by Georg Overholser and Sean Stannard-Stockton found out how this wrong understanding of charity affects its effectiveness. Between 1970 and 2002 only 144 charitable non-profit organizations climbed beyond the mark of 50 million Dollar revenue per year. During that same time 46.136 companies on the for-profit-sector managed to do the same. What we see here is parallel universes colliding. Doing good doesn’t add up – at least in financial terms.

Loosen the hand brake!

The erroneous believe that as a charity no profits can or should be made and all the donations should be given directly to “the cause” have some fatal consequences. Those who would like to spend their career in non-profit-organizations fighting for a good cause might think at last twice due to this ideology of asceticism. Today working in charity for entrepreneurs means above all one thing: sacrifice. But what would it be like if this was not the case and the brightest minds from the best universities would see the opportunity to build a profitable large-scale charity-operation? This would change the game dramatically.

Various other factors come into play too: organizations that don’t generate profits have a hard time growing, investing, getting top notch personnel. The consequence of that is a lack of innovation. Without innovation no investment and no growth – which translates into bad luck for the rainforest that needs preservation or the project that funds cancer research or thousands starving in conflict zones.

Since profit seems to be the absolute evil as far as charity is concerned (but totally ok for companies that don’t want to help other people or do good?!) there is simply no basis to scale up charity-projects to the size proportionate to the problem that needs fixing. The world-renowned author Karl May once wrote:

“The power of money affects people like any other earthly force: in a charitable way as long as he controls it, detrimental as soon as he is controlled by it.”

Waiting for the flood

As long as the rules of the charity-business prohibit profit no investor will be interested in giving. What does that mean? It means that no charity will be given money to invest into new ideas, new projects or large-scale campaigns to create awareness for crucial topics. Without profit the forces of the market cannot be used for good.

In the world of big business the contrary remains true: here investors are eager to give their money to a project they support and even have the patience to wait sometimes for years before they see the yields and returns of their investment. The automobile company Tesla would be a good example of this. With charities this looks way different. People who give donations usually have neither time nor patience. In other words: many donators prefer the drop in the bucket NOW to the tidal wave later which needs time and patience to build. Changing the world with this attitude? Good luck.

Marketing for Good

From this situation it follows that charities can’t spend their revenue on marketing or advertising – the so-called fundraising. But what good is a company that does not market it’s product? No good at all.

So while for-profit companies spend huge sums on ads to promote their products or their ideas charitable organizations remain in a marketing stone-age. Imagine an organization receiving 10 million in donations without advertisements. And then imagine an organization spending 10 million on a full-scale public relations operation which then in turn earns them 100 million for the cause. Now we start to see what’s wrong with the concept of radical frugality in the non-profit sector.

And by the way: in the last few years less and less people in Germany donated to charitable organizations. At the same time the amount of donations given in 2017 was on a record high of about 5 billion Euros. The majority of this sum was given by senior citizens. What’s to learn here? That the readiness of young people to donate is low, the younger generation cannot be motivated to give by the old means – and in a few years time charities will have  a huge problem on their hands.

Social-Media as a game-changer

EMERALD BERLIN is thinking about this problem intensively. As a social start-up we are first and foremost interested in supporting good causes effectively and sustainably, creating awareness and making sure that charity-projects get realized. This is exactly that the project NANDINI has in mind. Its founder Nathalie Nothstein started a program called “sharing is caring” which sets out to tackle the above mentioned issue of lacking marketing power of charities.

How does she do it? With project NANDINI she uses the follower-power of social-media to create publicity for non-profit organizations – this is effective, reaches young people and is cost-effective at the same time. This way prominent personalities and influencers from all areas become NANDINI-ambassadors for good by supporting projects of their choice and multiplying the message throughout the digital community. The end-result: Good causes get the attention they need. A genius idea, isn’t it?

And let’s be honest: would you not like to be a part of it if you’d know that a simple like, a facebook-post or Instagram-story can create awareness and make a good cause known to the world? Yes, we think so too! If you’d like to know more about project NANDINI visit our website. And those of you who do not only want to stay informed but become a supporter yourself please have a look at our EMERALD x NANDINI fashion collection. Every product gives you the opportunity to take the good cause to the streets or to social-media and support the mission. The EMERALD Instagram-channel you did already discover, didn’t you? Here you find updates around our work, our collections and projects. See you there!

 

The author of this blog-article is Marc Dassen. You want to leave him a comment or ask a question? Send him an e-mail via marc@emerald-berlin.com.


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