What is your charity selling?

By Sue Wixley 11 April 2012

Garlic, onions, tomatoes… and hope too? There’s an interesting new charity fundraising idea being piloted in London this week. The Alzheimer’s Society is selling ‘Hope’ alongside chocolate bars and boxes of truffles in two north London supermarkets (see this article in The Guardian).

Through the scheme, shoppers who pop a wooden block marked ‘Hope’ in their basket and pay £1 when they get to the till, will be donating to the main organisation in the UK working with people with Alzheimer’s (alzheimers.org.uk).

I’ll be interested to see whether this takes off. On the face of it, this seems like a great idea and clearly charities in this country could do with some good fundraising ideas right now. Many are facing a double whammy of declining donation income and increasing demand for their services. At the same time “high pressure” fundraising techniques, like ‘chugging’ where fundraisers approaching prospective donors on the street or on their doorsteps, are facing increasing opposition. (Not to mention the negative impact on charitable giving of the Chancellor’s new tax relief cap.)

As well as potentially introducing a different fundraising technique for charities, this new tactic also got me thinking about what charities are ‘selling’. If the Alzheimer’s Society is selling ‘Hope’: what is the charity I work for selling? What word would we inscribe on a token for sale at the local supermarket?

NPC is seen as being synonymous with impact, so many people would imagine we’d be selling blocks of ‘Impact’. However, our work with charities and funders is wider than this. Alongside the rigorous number-crunching and impact measurement we’re well known for, NPC helps charities with their strategies and ‘theory of change’, carries out research to inform decision-making, and even provides outsourced support such as survey design. As a think tank, we also come up with new ideas and approaches, such as the NPC’s Well-being Measure, and convene events in order to facilitate debate and fresh thinking about key issues.

So perhaps NPC is selling ‘Innovative thinking’ (definitely not snappy enough to sit on a shelf next to a bag of Maltesers). Or ‘Confidence’ (that doesn’t work either, although we know that our clients and partners usually come away feeling much clearer about what they’re achieving and  this helps motivate staff, volunteers and trustees alike). Ultimately however, what NPC is offering everyone it works with is a solution. Whether this is a set of recommendations based on our latest research findings, a new framework to measure the impact of a programme, or simply the chance to learn from like-minded charities or donors at an event, we hope we’re helping the sector tackle the problems it faces.

I’m not sure how appealing a box of ‘Solutions’ would be to the average shopper, but that’s another issue entirely. What is your charity selling?