The words “disruption” and “innovation” are dominating business headlines at the moment. Every industry from retail and travel, to banking and telecommunications are either trying to drive, or bracing for, disruption across their sector.
If I had my way, within 10 years, there would be no such thing as the “charity” business model.
New ways of doing business are completely reshaping what it means to be a successful company. Who would have thought that one of the largest, modern transport network company’s in the world would be able to boast that it owns none of its own vehicles? Well Uber is exactly that.
Or that one of the fastest growing, worldwide accommodation leaders would similarly not own a single bricks-and-mortar property – hello Airbnb.
In this changing world then, the charity and not-for-profit sector can not expect to not also be similarly challenged.
The word “charity” started life as a verb – it was an act that someone chose to do – but somewhere along the line groups of people came together and high-jacked the word so that it became all about an organisational approach. A model that largely relies on a “hands-out” approach ie the generosity of others, to get important social work done.
Already there are rumblings across the sector – talk of charities repositioning themselves from being at the “begging end” of the business spectrum to the more successful “social enterprise” end are dominating many strategy discussions at the moment (or at least the ones we are involved with at KTA) and this excites me because if I had my way, within 10 years, there would be no such thing as the “charity” business model.
To me the classic “charity” business model has no place in our forward focused world.
The word “charity” started life as a verb – it was an act that someone chose to do – but somewhere along the line groups of people came together and high-jacked the word so that it became all about an organisational approach. A model that largely relies on a “hands-out” approach, ie the generosity of others, to get important social work done.
That approach may have worked through the 1900s but the reality is that ever since that calendar rolled over into the new century the pressure has been on the sector to redefine itself – to make itself more transparent, accountable and sustainable.
In that context we should all be excited by initiatives where organisations that are working for a greater societal good, adopt smart business ideas to drive either greater corporate or individual support, and consequently drive results faster and further.
Things like the SW/TCH Festival – run this past weekend – by the Cure for Brain Cancer Foundation are literally brilliant. (see http://www.curebraincancer.org.au/page/124/switch)
Fundamentally this “charity” repositioned itself from being an “asker” to being a valued business partner and that’s just plain clever.
Faced with a market place where many traditional “Corporate Partnerships” were closed to them because of long-term, “hands out” agreements, this Foundation envisaged a completely new way of engaging and securing corporate support. An approach that not only drove the funds they needed to invest in scientific research into curing brain cancer but that also met a business need for the corporate partners involved.
Fundamentally this “charity” repositioned itself from being an “asker” to being a valued “business partner”, adding as much if not more than they were receiving and that’s just plain clever.
The bottom line is that in this era, where time is of the essence, analysis paralysis will see many older “well established” businesses be left for dead as they try to come to grips with ways to innovate.
Similarly those organisations that currently class themselves as charities need to look at why they came to be, what they are trying to achieve, and in many instances, why they haven’t achieved it yet because, like just about everything else in this world, people don’t want to wait for results any longer and the reasons to support someone “just because they ask” are getting more thinly spread.
Imagine if your social enterprise could be the next Uber or Airbnb for the societal issue you are passionate about fixing. And if you can imagine that, we’d love to help you achieve it!
Yours in riding the disruption,
Contact us at email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; or email@example.com to chat further