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Joel John Roberts

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Charity Impossible: Do America's Charities Need Rescuing?

Posted: 05/20/2012 4:58 pm

Robert Irvine charges in like a bull in a fine dining establishment, except the restaurant in need of rescuing is typically failing, and certainly not fine. His television show on Food Network displays Irvine's talent in reviving dying eateries, with a change of interiors, menu, branding, and of course, food. At the end of each episode, the nearly shuttered restaurant becomes a successfully vibrant community eating space.

I wonder if the charity world needs a similar hero?

A recent UCLA study revealed the urgent need for some sort of rescue effort for charities in Southern California. After surveying nonprofit groups ten years ago, they recently tried to reconnect with the same groups only to find that 15 percent went out of business. And of the housing and homeless charities, nearly a quarter disappeared. The sad fact is that charities are going out of business.

A Southern California funders collaborative hosted a sustainability summit for charities in order to measure the viability of hurting nonprofits merging together in order to survive. 700 charity leaders showed up.

I have personally seen several charities go out of business just in the last year. From a nonprofit that helps homeless youth, to an advocacy group fighting to feed hungry Americans. The fragile economy is not only hurting American families and individuals, but also the agencies that help them.

In the for-profit business world, many would say that Darwinism should also apply in the nonprofit world. The survival of the fittest should always prevail. Let weak charities die.

But I disagree. There are amazing American philanthropists who have the passion and unique ability to transform hurting people. Some charity leaders have the uncanny ability to help a teen gang member walk a new path, protect a woman from an abusive husband, or house a person who has been homeless for decades.

Unfortunately, these caring social good leaders don't have the skill to market their organization as well as today's hot charity -- like Charity: Water, or can balance their books like Deloitte & Touche. Just because you are good at empowering hurting people doesn't mean you have a Harvard MBA in successfully making money. Selling a cell phone to the masses is different than convincing a jaded American public to donate $20 per month to a social good cause.

So the nonprofit world desperately needs help. For example, companies like Twitter need to help America's struggling charities learn how to market their charitable cause on social media. Companies like Apple that are raking in more money than most nations need to help social good organizations create a crowd of fanboys (or fan-girls).

Somehow, the social good charities that have an amazing ability to transform America's hurting people need help in creating brands that attract the eye of America's donors.

We need the Robert Irvine of charities to help create a make-over in this changing new world.

Otherwise, the most experienced and most effective social good leaders will simply give up their amazing ability to transform lives because good money-making marketers are shutting down their charities.

 
 
 

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