Written By: Sarah G. Schmidt, Design & Development
As a marketer I live by the saying, “Perception is reality.” For brands I know it to be true. Whatever your customer believes is the truth. For better or worse, it becomes the truth. Or at the very least, what you need to keep in mind when engaging with them. That’s easy enough to understand but what happens when the perception is wrong?
Over the years, donors and the larger community have grown to learn that non-profits should spend their money on the front line of the cause. Take for example animal welfare causes. Say an organization that you are fond of takes in dogs and cats, rehabilitates them and finds them new, forever homes. When you hear their fundraising call, you may be curious to know where that funding will go. For instance, what vaccination program or how many puppies does it help? Fair enough. You may ask yourself something like, “I want to be sure that if I give a donation, that funding will go straight towards saving more dogs and cats.” You are not alone, but I challenge that expectation is a bit shortsighted.
It’s understandable to want to see more puppies and kittens saved, but what happens if donating to front line services, exclusively, isn’t the way to get there? What happens if by donating only to the front line programs we are restricting the potential results of that non-profit? Rather, what happens if you invest in the operations of the whole organization and see what happens?
We know from the developing world that education is the key to opportunity and bettering oneself. When one gains knowledge and other resources one can navigate everyday challenges with greater chance of success. With knowledge, comes opportunity. With knowledge, comes innovation. Here in Canada the same is true. Access to knowledge and practical learning helps us become better.
Investing in knowledge in an organization, whether it’s an individual or a technology, is considered part of the overhead budget category. I believe it’s a necessary investment as lower wages tend to not attract or retain top talent.
What happens if we invested in the education and training of the people in non-profit organizations? What happens if we made sure that non-profits were on top of best practice learning? What happens if we gave the organizations the tools to plan for their future with the eventual result of saving more dogs and cats? Would these better-equipped, already passionate people lead to advancements and improvements that another non-profits may not because we haven’t provided the capacity for them to? That’s pretty obvious, right?
So why then do we hold non-profits to different, lesser standards and expect them to solve our communities’ greatest challenges? A common phrase I hear is, “Do more with less.” Why do we allow this perception to ring true? And more importantly, and one of the key focuses of my work, how do I right this wrong in the perceptions in our community?