Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"Organized" Charities

The title of this blog post is completely wrong. It should read "Unorganized and Completely Inept Charities." Included in that list would be the world famous ones too that every knows.


Probably top of the list would be the Red Cross. In an article entitled, Japan Red Cross? Too Slow to Help Out I castigated that organization for extremely slow reaction in helping those affected by the Great Tohoku earthquake in Tsunami in northern Japan on March 11, 2011. I wrote:

" the time of the writing of this article, more than one month after the crisis began, Japan Red Cross has not allocateda single yen to the disaster victims. On the web page of the Japan Red Cross, in a post dated April 15th, 2011, they had finally announced that they had decided how much money will be allocated to which areas - so that the monies can then be sent to committees in those areas to be decided how they should be allocated! Odd, but something here seems to reek of bureaucracy.
This is outrageous. 

I thought an organization like Japan Red Cross would be acting immediately to relieve those in desperate need rather than debating in long meetings what local chamber gets how much money or making sure their bookkeepers have their antiquated accounting in order by the end of each month. But, if this event and past scandals such as the poor handling of the relief efforts for the Katrina disaster or Haiti is any indicator, the glacial speed of reaction to crises by the Red Cross leaves much to be desired. 
When people and small children are suffering and starving in the freezing cold they need help right now, not after six to eight weeks. They certainly need help quicker than the former government bureaucrats at cushy positions at the Japan Red Cross seem to be capable of delivering."

Over these last twenty years, I've been helping out with many charities and organizations. I have seen just about every major charity in Japan running in some form or another. I must say that I thought "Rock Challenge Japan," "Hands on Tokyo" and "Children With Incurable Diseases" were the only ones that I felt satisfied the minimum level of professionalism I want in a charity.

A charity is a business, try to run it that way

Some of the others wouldn't even return my phones calls... And that was after calling several times. I won't name them.

From helping many of these charities I have come to recognize one things that runs through most of them and that is, while many people seems to be well-meaning, they are completely and totally incompetent, have zero business experience and do not understand even the most basic principles of the term: ROI when approaching sponsors and asking for donations or support.

ROI stands for "Return on Investment." It is so basic that I am astounded that, out of all these charities that I have cooperated with, I have only met a very few people who seem to grasp this idea.

ROI goes like this: I am a big corporate sponsor. You are a charity. You ask me to support you. Sounds like a good idea. OK, what do I get out of helping you?

And, no. Your "Thanks" just doesn't cut it anymore. When sponsors are few and far between we need a much better effort than the, frankly speaking, half-assed efforts we've been getting from most charities up until now.

Yesterday I had a guy ask me to try to arrange travel tickets for his charity that will be held in 7 weeks time. I was so surprised. There's just no way that can be done. Maybe Clark Kent could pull that one off, but Mike Rogers can't.

Recently, I arranged airfare for two to London on British Airways for a school charity at St. Mary's International School that will be held second week of May, but I started organizing that deal over three months ago. With that, I made a proper professional quality business presentation on Power Point along with several pages of documentation and presented that to the client along with several follow up phone calls and dozens of emails.

The guy who asked me to help yesterday? Nothing. No data, details, nothing. In fact, it was the first time I had heard of it.

Anyway, I can't help them. It's totally impossible as it is way too late. Talk about poor planning! (I've mentioned many times that 80% of success lies in good planning). I then asked my friend about what sort of metrics that the sponsor could be offered? Meaning, what sort of visibility on flyers, posters, etc. I was told that the flyers were already made and distributed that there would be no visibility for the sponsor at all.

Now, if there is no ROI benefit for the sponsor, why in the world does anyone think a sponsor is going to say "OK" to something like this? There's no way. 

I also refuse to look stupid in front of a client by even asking such a dumb and ridiculous question. Just because the charity is unorganized and fouled up, doesn't mean that I am willingly going to go there and look stupid too! 

ROI! ROI! ROI! What does the client get in return for their help investment? That's the only question that matters. This is not fun and it is not a game. It is a business decision!

There's many reasons why corporations have rules concerning charities and standards concerning ROI. The biggest one I can think of right off the top of my head is to prevent abuse. I mean, if there's no rules concerning these sorts of activities, then what's to stop a, country manager from giving away a thousand dollars of goods to, say, her best friend's ladies luncheon group or their son's kindergarten school function?

I don't write this blog post to blast some of these charities but I write this to help you folks out (I write it directly too as I haven't the time or patience to be giving out free advice all the time). Some basic common sense and a basic understanding of this simple concept of ROI - as well as some thought put into, "Gee, if the sponsor supports us, what kind of bang do they get for their buck?" Will help separate the charities that receive from the charities that don't.

The bottom line? What does the client company get out of sponsoring and helping your charity and how does the in-charge at that company justify to his boss and book-keeping manager the fact that he wants to approve giving you thousands of dollars worth of support in cash or in prizes? 

Sponsors need something to show for their efforts. You had better figure out how to give it to them too if you want their help. Trust that, as time goes by, the charities who do figure this out and take my advice to heart will be the ones who get. The others who fail to recognize this common sense fact of life might as well close their doors.

Here's one good idea: On a recent relief trip to the tsunami hit area, my partners who helped me organized, made sure we created a top-quality professional video of the effort and we placed sponsors and supporters names at the end of the video with company logos.

Now, when I want to arrange any sort of charity to help the earthquake and tsunami sufferers, all I need to do is direct people to that video on YouTube and they can see for themselves what their ROI is. See the video Ishinomaki - Black Water here.

Compare that with your charity that is asking for free airline tickets to support your event or festival, yet you can't even give me metrics on how many posters are to be printed or where my company logo will be placed.

In this day and age where corporate sponsorships are getting harder and harder to come by, a better understanding of their needs is critical. 

Everyone already knows what the charities need. That doesn't need explaining too much. Explain to me, the client, "What do I get?"

1 comment:

Mark said...

Do you have any experience with Charitas Japan? Are they one of the better ones?

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