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A radical, restructuring idea for the charity sector

Walk into any charity HQ in the country and what you will find is a traditional setup - top down management and separate departments handling different donor types. Whilst all aiming for the same thing, our staffing structures are such that different departments end up competing with one another over the same donors.

So, let's say the department that handles outreach charity events like marathons is contacted by a major corporation that wants all its executives to run in the marathon: who receives the credit for that? Is it the outreach team or the corporate team? Maybe one team runs the marathon, but the other team was actually the one that made the initial contact with the corporation.

Quite naturally, each team has a vested interest in claiming these donors and justification to do so.

I have a radical idea. Slim down all these competing departments into two teams: Product and Audience.

The Audience team would be in charge of all the donor groups, from the CEOs to pensioners and families. This team will also do the marketing to their audiences. They will know about advertising, etc. Whereas, the Product team doesn’t care about that, or rather I should say: isn't involved in that.

Instead, the Product team focuses all their energy on creating events and unique ideas to raise funding. Every month the Product team “sell” their idea to the Audience team. Then, they tweak it to fit the Audience team's needs. Product team can also commission the Audience team to do some research on their behalf.

Let's take a familiar fundraising audience: students. The Product team come up with a skydiving event, they find the venue and hire the plane. The Audience team are in charge of who will do it, and may say, "Yes, we have loads of students who may give it a go but at £1000 a jump, we can’t sell that to our students." So, they go back to the Product team and ask them to create something for Rag Week instead.

In other examples, the Audience team could ask the Product team to create an event for young mums, or the Product team could have an amazing idea and ask the Audience team to research which donor group would suit it best.

In the traditional structure, products are created specifically for one audience and if that audience spills into another team, that may be seen as a loss. This new structuring would remove that issue.

The Product team would be judged on whether the "product" sold and got bums on seats. The Audience team would be judged on how much money the donors gave this year. All the donors, as one.

As such, both sides could claim the money.

In the traditional structure there is “hold 'em close” culture. In the new structure, sharing information is essential.

Will it happen? Well, it is easy for me to preach from the pulpit. Much harder to completely restructure the internal network of a multi-national charity. But, if you know of any organisation that has, I'd be very interested to learn more about them.

Jonathan Cook | | +44 (0)7921 250 211

Jonathan @Linkedin | Twitter @jonathan_m_cook

Photo credit: John/Flickr

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