I am asked all the time(well really only by markyphillips on twitter) both professional and privately who do I think are worthy charities/non-profits to support. So here is my reply.
To be perfectly honest I usually never directly donated to any organisation. However that doesn't mean I don't support my fair share of good charities. You can support charities in many ways and despite what many non-profits will tell you; taking out a monthly subscription is not always the best way to support a charity and certainly not mine. The reason is that I, like many other potential donors out there want to know exactly where the money will go. With so much jargon used in Non-Profit marketing sometimes it's impossible to really understand how your money will enable poverty development.
I look for two simple attributes of a Non-Profit organisation to which I will give my money: Transparency and Proximity. I only support charities if I can see first hand how the money is spent, personally ensuring that the charity has a high level of transparency. That’s why my primary method of supporting poor people all around the world is through attending charity events. Proximity is also an important concept in the non-profit/charity sector and often its’ definition is hotly debated, basically it means; ensuring good access for the large donors to the celebs as well as a bit of access for the smaller donor(polite term we use in marketing). At a charity event you can see first hand the quality of a non-profits organisational skills and how it treats its targeted beneficiaries; the celebs and large donors. If the charity is bending over backwards to give the celebs and large donor beneficiaries a fantastic feel good time, the chances are even the smaller donors are also in for a great night.
But which charity event to attend?
As someone who has over the years organised dozens of charity events here are a few key things you should be looking out for when choosing a suitable charity event for you charity ticket donation:
1. Low Program Staff to Celebrity Ratio: Program staff like to be involved in charity events often just for the free drinks, however this involvement can come at a terrible cost to an event. Program staff are often very passionate about the extraordinary poverty development and humanitarian work they do. This passion however when expressed with the backing of a few “The Collins” cocktails can trigger an A-List celeb’s flight or consumption(alcohol or prescription drugs) response. I have seen the tragic affects first hand of program staff and A-List celeb interaction. In November 2005 at our Inepditude Campaign Launch “Poverty Development more than a Slogan!” poor David Hasselhoff was corned by Trish Pelkman our South Asian Program Manager for 35 minutes on Sri Lankan tea plantation labour conditions. I suspect that this brief encounter with Trish drove poor David into a terrible downward spiral that he is just now recovering from. The rule here is attend and organise charity events with as few program staff as possible. They are like waste bins, you need some but too many just get in the way.
2. Champas, Hors d'œuvre and Easy Listening: Sounds so simple doesn’t it the basis of a good charity event; Champas, Hors d'œuvre and Easy Listening. However I have seen so many otherwise great events ruined by some tragic catering and entertainment choices. As an example global warming and environmental type events could have a much higher profile on the charity circuit, however Lambrusco, Party Pies and Indy Rock have given a strong laxative affect on celeb and large donor participation to so many a Green Charity Event.
One rung lower on the evolutionary ladder of charity events are the animal rights activists events. No matter how good an animal rights charity event sounds do not attend. They are likely to serve mixed wine beverages(with fruit) and always if you do attend use hand sanitizer after every greeting. The hand sanitizer is not a bad idea at green charity events either, oh! one more thing if you see interesting hair at green or animal rights events resist the urge to say “your hair is really interesting” and touch it. For one the hair will be an unhygienic metropolis for insects that itch and two the question will be followed a two hour monologue on indigenous hair designs. Ok I lost my train of thought a little here but I think the main learning point is don’t attend Green or Animal Rights Charity Events.
3. Support the UN especially UNICEF and UNHCR: Inepd International produces 1st class charity events we work hard to do all the right things. We provide quality champagne, nibbles, easy listening and light entertainment to our guests. We carefully segregate program staff from celebs so that they have to negotiate a veritable maze of obstacles to get within a “just walked into a Hello Magazine photo” or to dribble an autograph request. Oh! another tip to keep program staff in their designated area: Provide very small drink glasses for program staff, this ensures they have to return every 2-3 minutes back to the bar thereby reducing their interaction time with the important guests.
Whatever the achievements of Inepd International in providing outstanding charity events, the UN is the gold standard for cuisine, celebrities and fantastic easy listening and light entertainment. UNHCR and UNICEF have set the bar incredible high with their no holds barred attitude and creating events where cost is no object. The UN dwarf’s the competition in charity event design and implementation. Proximity to the stars like Angelina and the Beckhams and the UN’s ability to produce great events under terrible demanding circumstances(just ask UNHCR about Namibian sparkling mineral water and Angelina and you’ll see rosie cheeks turn ash grey in the New York communications staffs faces), just imagine what they are achieving in poor countries.
Just quickly when looking for a charity/ non-profit to support I also look for the commitment of a charity to make a difference and dare to be innovative. I have over the years supported organisations that have just made me sit up really take notice and revaluate my approach to charity marketing and communications. Here are a few of my WOW moments:
1. Last year Warchild Holland took non-profit marketing to a new level. Warchild linked up with an amazing film project starring the Netherlands singing sensation and Warchild’s Ambassador Marco Borsato in the lead role of the movie “Wit Licht” or “The Silent Army”. The synergetic and symbiotic interrelationships between charity-celebrity-movie are truly mind-bending. I believe that what Warchild has done will change non-profit marketing for ever and of course the better. I guess it’s no secret now that Inepd International has copied the Warchild approach with it’s new movie project “Green Light” starring Phil Collins and Tyra Banks which is currently in production. We even tried to lure away Marco Borsato from Warchild but were not convinced he could do an upper class english accent as well as Phil Collins.
2. In 2002/3 MSF had a real opportunity to take the lead in the movies but disappointingly lost focus at the last moment and didn’t get behind “Beyond Borders” starring Angelina Jolie and of course the very passionate Dr Clive Owen. It was Beyond Borders and seeing Angelina’s humanitarian sacrifice by stepping off a mine to save the man she loved that inspired me to join Inepd International. I thought maybe there is a rugged surgeon having saved lives in some of steamiest locations around the globe and who is completely heartbroken just waiting for a London girl with quite a bit of marketing expertise and always up for a fun night to pick up the pieces. Now where was I again. Oh yes, MSF loosing their balls or eye on the ball etc. This year MSF-UK bounced back and took charity marketing to a new heights with the commercial below(some readers may find this disturbing):