In response to yesterdays article Transactional Vs Transformational Impact, we received some excellent questions about why the NFP sector has a heavy focus on transactional altruism and transactional impact opportunities, so we thought we would take a moment to address some of these questions today.
“Why does the NFP sector do this? In my limited experience, very few of them seem to want your "help", just the transaction or series of transactions. And this raises questions about the money, where it goes, how much gets to the cause itself, etc.
And when they want to engage with me, getting the usual phone call thanking me for my patronage, what my money has achieved and then asking for more money does not really do it for me.
Guess the question is how you turn your donor base into an engaged and usable base of people that will get their hands dirty and really want to see the particular issue disappear.”
While this is a complicated and multi-faceted question, we thought we would address some of the main reasons for the current state of affairs.
Firstly, there are approximately 600,000 non profits in the country right now, which works out to roughly one NFP for every 40 people. Of those ~600,000, 56,377 are registered with the ACNC (Australian Charities and NFP Commission)*. This equates to one registered NFP for every 440 people. An entire organisation for every 40 people in the country. This doesn’t include all the individual Go-Fund Me, Crowd funding or private Paypal pages for various individual causes or fundraising opportunities.
For fundraising purposes, if we divide the number of NFP’s by the number of Australians aged 15-80 we end up with an organisation for every 31 people. We aren't saying that people in the ages of 0-15 and 80+ are unable to contribute, but in the most active demographic of the population the ratio of people to organisations gets even more extreme.
We will dive deeper into the nature and challenges of the concept of Non-Profits at another time, but for these questions it helps to give an idea of the scale of competition. For further reading on why non-profits aren’t the answer to solving problems as they operate currently, read this article The Problem With Transactional Altruism.
The number of charities and the fact that 1% of non-profits take up over 50% of the available sector revenue means that the marketing of the remaining organisations must produce ‘bang for buck’. Unfortunately, after decades of chasing this ROI for marketing dollars, the overwhelming emphasis inside these organisations has gone from effective ‘help’ to effective ‘emotional activation resulting in donations’.
If one organisation says, “Hey guys, we are doing a great job here, but we need lots of funding, we need it for a long time, require heaps of multi-level engagement and we can change lives but we won’t solve this complex problem for 10 years…” In the current climate, it makes it hard to get funding.
Instead a typical campaign looks like this;
Here is a picture, graphic, video or story about someone who has a very visible kind of disadvantage. Very visible is important because a guilt response needs to be activated right away in order to get a funding outcome. Queue – sick children in hospital, animals with very visible signs of abuse, shocking images of the outcomes of domestic violence, rough sleeping homeless people etc… The use of visible disadvantage plays to the short attention span of the audience, and seeks to get an emotional response on the spot in order to get them to donate.
See Image – Feel Bad (Emotional/Empathetic/Guilt Response) – Get told that this organisation helps – Donate – Feel better… Repeat.
There are several downsides to this kind of promotion, which has been going on for decades. Firstly, the emphasis on visible disadvantage has disrupted the education of the greater public regarding all kinds of disadvantage. It skews this understanding on many levels, including; selling the idea that, if you can see it, you understand the disadvantage.
Organisations use this tactic to drive donations in every NFP sector.
By telling you that “Your $5 changes someone’s whole life for the better.”. You are not only being encouraged to believe that you are getting great bang for buck, you are also learning that people who are doing it tough can be fixed for only $5. This ignorance of the real complexity of causes of disadvantage prevents the understanding, investment and investigation into long-term interventions to help all people who need help.
A further downside of this misunderstanding of real disadvantage, the focus on short-term easy to understand interventions and the marketing of visible disadvantage, is that the government engages with the community in the same way.
With only three-year state and federal terms, Governments are largely interested in ‘handshake’ moments and short-term interventions as part of the strategy for re-election. The government focus on good news stories and short-term outcomes has significant implications for the structural operation of the NFP space, as Government funding provides over 40% of total NFP funding.
The two final, and perhaps most significant barriers to the efficacy of the NFP sector in Transformational Impact are;
The focus on What they do rather than What happens to the person getting help.
The focus on ‘Particular Issues Disappearing.’
We will touch on those issues over the coming days to prevent this being 10,000 words long.
You can see when the vast majority of the funding of an industry comes from parties that doesn’t want actual engagement, there is little interest in making transformational change. The unfortunate downside of operating in that fashion is that now people are fatigued by visible disadvantage, aware of the inefficiencies of the sector, looking for more to do themselves and operating in an environment that hasn’t educated them sufficiently on the actual causes and realities of disadvantage in all its forms.
The Just Be Nice Project was started in response to these inefficiencies. Creating an eco-system where transformational impact is the mandatory style of engagement. Focusing on getting people the help they need, when they need it, for as long as they need it, regardless of how they come to experience difficulty. We embrace the complexity by working in a dynamic way towards an outcome for the people and communities in need.
If you were building a house, you wouldn’t give all the money only to the carpenter and hope for the best. You would let the builder manage the resources to all the trades and suppliers, having them come in and out, as required, until the job is done properly.
We operate in a similar way, managing resources to keep the best resources coming in and out until people in need are housed, employed and have good mental health.
It’s not always simple, but if you don’t demand a short time frame, it is nearly always possible. With a clear outcome for the people in need, efficient utilisation of skills, engagement and resources, and an acknowledgement that no one person or intervention is the complete answer, we are able to build dynamic, relevant and effective solutions to solve complex problems. Problems that need solving, create transformative experiences for those helping and those receiving help while educating everyone along the way.
Thanks for the questions! Stay tuned for more discussion during the week. If you would like to ask more questions or get involved, sign up below. We'd love to have you on board.
*As of 12/08/2018
Just Be Nice
A collection of articles relevant to pursuing the effective execution of altruism in the search for equality of opportunity.