Robert Irvine charges in like a bull in a fine dining establishment, except the restaurant in need of rescuing is not fine. In fact, typically it’s failing. His television show on Food Network, Restaurant: Impossible, showcases Irvine’s talent for reviving dying eateries with a change of interior, menu, branding and, of course, food. At the end of each episode, the nearly-shuttered restaurant becomes a successful, vibrant community eating space.
Does the charity world need a similar hero?
A recent UCLA study revealed the urgent need for some sort of rescue effort for charities in Southern California. While trying to follow up with the nonprofit groups they had surveyed 10 years ago, UCLA found that 15% had gone out of business. And, of the housing and homelessness charities, nearly a quarter had disappeared.
It’s a sad fact: Charities are going out of business.
A Southern California funders collaborative hosted a sustainability summit for charities to explore the viability of nonprofits merging together in order to survive. More than 700 charity leaders showed up.
I have seen several charities go out of business just in the last year. From a nonprofit that helped homeless youth to an advocacy group that fought to feed hungry Americans. This fragile economy is not only hurting American families, but also the agencies that help them.
In the for-profit business world, many would say this is just Darwinism in action. Only the strong survive. Let the weak charities die.
But I disagree. There are amazing American philanthropists with the passion and ability to transform hurting people. Some of these leaders have the uncanny ability to help a teenaged 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 people don’t always have the skills to market their programs as well as Charity: Water does, or to balance their books like Deloitte & Touche. Being good at empowering hurting people doesn’t mean someone has an MBA from Harvard and knows how to make money. Marketing a cell phone to the masses is different than convincing a jaded American public to donate $20 per month to a good cause.
The nonprofit world needs help. Companies like Twitter need to help our struggling charities learn how to market their cause on social media. Companies like Apple, that are raking in more money than most nations, need to help social good organizations create their own crowd of fanboys (or fangirls).
The charities that know how to transform America’s hurting people need to be taught how to attract the eye of America’s donors.
We need the Robert Irvine of charities to make over the way we present ourselves in this changing world.
Otherwise, the most effective social good organizations will be forced to close their doors because more experienced marketers have shut them down.
Photo Credit: Marius Watz