Tag Archives: Charity

Sport Manitoba

This one is a little different, seeing as it is a not-for-profit. Nonetheless I think that Sport Manitoba deserves a mention because of the huge role that it played in my life and the lives of a huge number of people.

Basically if you played a sport in the province at any point in your life, you have Sport Manitoba to thank. The simple structure is that every sport played has a Provincial Sport Organization and Sport Manitoba houses and helps all of them.

Being someone who was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to play a number of sports, I have Sport MB to thank for the organization, partial-funding and training that is involved for every team. In addition to focusing on athlete development, there is also attention paid to coaches and officials, as well, because without them there is no organized sport (which is why until there are some refs involved, Ultimate is never getting into the Olympics).

Sport MB doesn’t just organize, either. Based on the belief (that I 100% share) that all kids should have the opportunity to play sports, they support charity KidSport. It gives the opportunity to participate to children who may not have had the chance otherwise.

Besides their work focusing on the on field / ice / court / track / ring / etc. activities, there is also a focus on enhancing other sport services. Sport medicine is important for athletes at all levels and is treated as such. The Sport for Life Centre (145 Pacific) is a state of the art facility which is able to help with a wide array of maladies.

So thank you Sport Manitoba! Not just for the sports that I played, and continue to play, but also for the development of the entire sport community!

BC’s C3 Program

There was an article forwarded to me about BC’s new C3 program, in which the 3 C’s stand for Community Contribution Company. I would encourage you to read the article, but in short it is a new business model, “[d]esigned to bridge the gap between for-profit businesses and non-profit enterprises.” A company with this distinction will be legally obligated to operate for a social purpose(s), but there is also an aspect of financial return. The article then goes on to say how with this program, social enterprises are now able to access investment capital, while staying social.

While I don’t disagree with a model such as this in the general sense, I do have a few reservations about how this is positioned. Namely I don’t think that this is going to attract the investment dollars that the government assumes it will, because of the fundamental differences between the goals of a social enterprise and an investor.

By definition, investors want a return on investment. The VC / Angel Investor games are risky enough as it is, why would anyone want to enter that game with a company that is already at a disadvantage? Don’t get me wrong, committing yourself and/or your company to a cause is very admirable and all the best to you if you do so. You just shouldn’t expect to get rich off of it and still support your cause.

Ask the countless business owners who have pursued outside funding, only to be surprised a year later when their business didn’t matter at all any more. It all became about the investors’ return. They didn’t care how it happened, but they were going to make money off the transaction, or else. I don’t see how that can work when the organization’s goals are not growth and returns.

It would therefore be foolish for an investor to think that they will actually be getting a return on their money, after the social component is fulfilled. What’s more, if the structure of the C3 designation is anything like charitable status, any margin that is made needs to be given to the cause right away. Therefore a small piece of pie for the investor, if anything at all. The goals are just too skewed.

Going back a few posts ago, I think this structure would be better going the other way, so to speak. Rather than trying to make a hybrid in order to attract private investment, have a hybrid where the government lays off the enterprise about mandatory minimum donations, etc. Give them some time to breathe, reinvest in themselves in the beginning and grow. Even with just 5 years of operation before all profits need to start being given to the charity could mean the difference between a small, medium or large organization.

I commend the BC government recognizing the lines are being blurred between charity and private social enterprise. There is no doubt that changes have to be made the corporate structure and tax law. I just think that this change is not going to make the right kind of waves.

Evaluation of Charities

In Canada’s social structure it is important to have charitable bodies, I would argue. Considering government support is and should be limited, having private citizens able to support their preferred cause allows public opinion to determine what receives support and what doesn’t.

How do people make their decision, though? For some it’s because of personal connection, for others it’s what’s convenient, what their friends are doing or for the perceived chance at personal gain. Many, myself included, have evaluated charities based on what percentage of money raised goes to the cause, which I’m not sure is a good thing.

On the surface, it seems like nearly the only quantitative, across the board comparison we can use to compare one charity to another, aside from total donation amount. How much did they give in relation to how much they received. Seems reasonable, but why is that?

For a long time it has been made known that donors don’t want their money going to overhead. In many cases employees at these charities are making well below their market rate, if anything at all. I’m starting to question whether a “successful” charity is one where their employees toe the poverty line, or at the every least need to make a significant personal sacrifice in order to work for the cause. It’s good that they’re a believer, but that is not a good employee-retention strategy, nor a solid long-term plan.

Most charities are stuck in a loop. Every year they go out, run the proven events, engage the proven sponsors, try to get some new donors, cut costs and give the surplus at the end of the year. Lather, rinse, repeat.

If they try anything new and it doesn’t work, resulting in a little less being given to the cause, they’re failures. If they try and re-invest in their people, they’re greedy. At every turn there is a board, recipient or donor waiting to criticise. This seem good in the short term, but the inevitable plateau of that charity will hurt in the long-term.

So what can be done? I would argue that charities should be able to take more chances. Re-invest in themselves for the sake of growth. In other words, remove some shackles and act a little more like the private sector.

Could you imaging a company try to grow, while at the same time paying every bit of profit that it makes our in dividends. Zero retained earnings. How could that company ever expect to grow? This is the situation that charities are in and because of it growth is extremely hard. Not to say it doesn’t happen, but when it does it’s against the odds.

Something I heard once that stuck with me is that no company succeeded to grow by focusing on cutting costs, only by focusing on increasing revenue is real growth possible. Why should this be any different for a charity? Is 40% $1 million not better than 70% of $100,000?

So when I’m making decisions about giving, I have new criteria. Number one on the list is how the charity is planning to reinvest in growth.

Take the Time for Others

Being out of school for a few years, the few times I’ve been back during the daytime hours have been fun. Now that I don’t know too many students on a personal level, I look forward to seeing the profs that are still there from my time. Last time I was at an Asper event, I got to thinking about how the profs that I still talk to weren’t necessarily in the subjects I enjoyed, or gave me the best marks, or even taught me at all. The profs that I speak with when I have the chance are the ones who gave me time out of class.

This really applies in all aspects of my life, which has me thinking ever further. I’ve called up a few business leaders in the past, every one of who gave me some of their precious time. Don’t really know why, but that seems to be the way Winnipeg is and I love it!

Not that my time is in great demand, but now that I have been out of school for a few years it seems like every once in a while someone asks an opinion from me, or for an introduction to one of my infinitely more interesting and impressive friends. Regardless of how big or small I try to remember how flattering it is to be asked for help and will do what I can to oblige.

To get extremely existential, when it comes down to it, there is no greater honour in life than being in the position to help someone else. Sharing what you have to offer will ensure that the positive effects of your actions have a ripple effect and really matter.

What’s more, apparently generosity can lead to success. I happened to read an article in Forbes about Adam Grant, who in addition to be a very successful academic, has found through his studies that givers are highest on the to of the “success scale”. The study discussed in the article is of salespeople, too, which has to be seen as one of the most dog-eat-dog professions out there.

In a much less scientific statement, when I think about it the people I regard the highest and would be more likely to promote someone who has helped me out, even without initiation. I would have to guess that most people would agree with that, meaning that it would be in the individual’s best interest to help out others whenever possible.

So, in addition to getting a good feeling about helping others, you may in fact be helping yourself more than you know! That’s not too bad of a deal.

Marketing Charities

Marketing charities has become increasingly more difficult over the past decade. The number of “asks” that the average Canadian receives every year is up and on the rise. Just think about your own day:

If it’s anything like mine odds are you see at least one or two charities to donate to on social media, have a friend or acquaintance ask for a donation on average once every couple weeks, have the cashier at every second store asking if you want to make a donation and see / hear a countless number of ads through the media / direct mail. To top it all off there is at least one event per month that supports a good cause.

If you’re like me, even reading the last paragraph is overwhelming and now that you’re thinking about it, I’m sure that many examples of these asks are coming to mind. The tough part is that they are so many worthy causes to give your money to. So how does a charity break through the pack?

Through a number of experiences, both professionally and as a volunteer, I have a few thoughts on how best to market a charity, especially on a limited budget (which is an unfortunate reality for many of these groups).

Get personal.

The number one way I have seen to secure a donation, bar none, is to have a personal touch. This is true for large charities, as well as small. My personal example of this is that I will set up an appointment to donate blood every time CBS calls me, but always forget to if they don’t.

It works the same for donations; if you have a friend, co-worker  family member or someone at your door asking, it’s harder to say “no”. It isn’t only a guilt play, but whenever I have someone I know and respect asking me for money I’m more inclined to think the cause is worthy. Their credibility is transferred to the charity.

Find the USP.

Something that charities need to realize is that this isn’t all about the cause they support. There should be an element of the “how” as well as the “what”. There are many charities which support cancer patients, but they do that in a variety of different ways. Funding research, supporting the families, providing funding for treatment, etc. By promoting how a charity does things it will make more of a connection to its donor base.

“What’s in it for me?”

It may sound terrible to you, but the reality is that there is a lot of charitable giving and time volunteered because there is a perceived benefit to the person giving the donation. Whether it’s a tax break, status or a good feeling, there’s a little bit of selfishness in every charitable act. By tastefully bringing these to the front, your odds just increased.

Copy a winner.

If pressed for an example of the best marketing charity I have seen, the United Way has to be close to the top. They take the above three concepts and seamlessly integrate them into one another. It always amazes me how they have taken volunteering for charity and turned it into something that can actually determine your worth in the unrelated company you work for. Not only that, but the insane networking opportunities they offer help both the volunteers and the charity. If given a choice, I’d try to copy them.