Charity. Historically, just by being recognised as a charity, you could assume the mantle of 'doing good'. Right? But ‘doing good’ is currently undergoing a transformative shift and charitable organisations need to wake up to a new reality that the lines between not-for-profit and for-profit are becoming blurred.
While charities have long been at the forefront of social and environmental initiatives, we need to acknowledge that they no longer hold a monopoly on addressing these pressing issues. Increasingly, for-profit organisations are stepping up their game, investing in causes that resonate with us all, particularly climate change and the environment. Moreover, certain entities, such as B Corps, are actively surpassing mere greenwashing. As charities move forward, it's vital for them to adapt and avoid being left behind.
Embracing a Changing Landscape
In this evolving landscape, where the lines between not-for-profit and for-profit are no longer clear, smart charities are embracing the changing dynamics and looking to benefit from increased opportunities for collaboration. Rather than perceiving for-profit organizations as rivals, charities can foster partnerships to amplify their collective impact. By leveraging the unique strengths of both sectors, it's possible to tackle societal and environmental challenges more effectively.
The Rise of Purpose-Driven Businesses
An increasing number of for-profit organisations are adapting to a more purpose-driven approach, committing themselves to making a positive social and environmental impact. Of course, if we want to be cynical, we can accuse them of simply following the money. The increased social awareness of customers is unquestionably driving at least some of this change.
However, personally, I think we waste energy on being suspicious of what's motivating businesses, because what matters is that their investment and success is interconnected with the well-being of the planet and society. B Corps, as an example, exemplify this paradigm shift by adhering to rigorous standards that ensure they benefit both people and the planet. Charities can learn from these examples, adopting innovative practices and collaborating with these purpose-driven businesses to achieve shared goals.
Yes, of course there is an element of greenwashing. Perhaps a big element. But it is heartening to see some for-profit organisations going beyond superficial gestures and actively engaging in meaningful change. By investing in sustainable practices, reducing carbon footprints, and promoting ethical sourcing, these businesses are leading positive transformations within their industries. Charities can draw inspiration from these efforts, incorporating sustainable practices into their own operations and advocating for change within their respective sectors.
Leveraging Technology for Good
The rapid advancement of technology has opened up new avenues for both charities and for-profits to make a positive impact. Digital platforms and social media enable widespread awareness, mobilisation, and fundraising efforts. Charities can harness these technological tools to expand their reach and connect with a broader audience, while for-profit organizations can leverage their resources and expertise to amplify these efforts. By working together, both sectors can utilise technology to drive meaningful change on a larger scale.
Emphasising Impact Measurement and Transparency
More than ever, there is scrutiny on the effectiveness and transparency of charitable organisations, so it's crucial for charities to prioritise impact measurement and reporting. Only by demonstrating tangible results and transparently communicating their achievements, can charities today build trust with stakeholders and differentiate themselves to funders. Collaborating with for-profit organisations that share a commitment to accountability and impact is another way to enhance credibility and win public trust.
The landscape of 'doing good' is shifting, and charities need to adapt to this evolving reality. By embracing partnership working with purpose-driven businesses, learning from their sustainable practices, leveraging technology, and prioritising impact measurement, charities are capable of remaining relevant and effective in addressing societal and environmental challenges. The key lies in recognising that the pursuit of positive change is a shared responsibility, transcending the boundaries between not-for-profit and for-profit sectors. Only by working together can we can forge a brighter future for all.
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Jenny Hopkins is the founder of The Boiling Frog. Having spent the earlier part of her career in publishing, she switched to the charity sector and became CEO of a local deaf charity. Over a period of ten years, she is credited with transforming it into an award-winning organisation and trusted partner of local health and social care statutory bodies. She has since stepped back from that role to embark on a PhD about the impact of marketisation on deaf charities, alongside mentoring other CEOs of small charities. She uses The Boiling Frog blog as a way to reflect and challenge her own experience and perceptions about the role of charities in society today. She also volunteers as a trustee for two charities.