In recent years, there has been growing acknowledgement in the not-for-profit sphere – notably among universities, hospitals and charitable organizations – of the need to differentiate from competitors through brand strategy. Brand strategy requires of organizations that they do some deep thinking about how to provide donors with value in exchange for cash. It requires alot more effort than that involved in panhandling on downtown streets.
But not everyone got the memo. Anyone who has recently been in Toronto’s financial district will know what I mean. It is both sad and annoying to see a growing army of charities begging from passersby on the sidewalk. World Wildlife Fund, Doctors Without Borders, Greenpeace, Sick Kids’ Hospital and others are asking bustling businesspeople if they “have a minute to talk” about their cause. Often they will stake out sidewalks on both sides of the street, so you can’t even run through traffic to avoid them.
This is the financial district we are talking about. Of all places in the city, the people here are always in a rush. Adding to the five times each day that these folks must avoid – or say “yes” or “no” to – a homeless person is not the way for these charities to represent their brands in a positive light.
Evidently they are bereft of decent fundraising ideas – so they might consider learning from charities like Epilepsy Toronto which threw the annual, fantastically-attended Toronto Buskerfest recently. In so doing, that charity raised lots of money I am sure (they were taking donations at entry points to the festival) and provided tens of thousands of people with value in the form of terrific, unique entertainment.
And imagine how their young, fresh-faced volunteers felt about lending their time to a fundraising activity that makes people happy. Good, I would imagine, making them more likely to stick around than say, someone lowered to begging on the sidewalk.