Big Issue founder calls for marketers’ expertise…

Big Issue founder John Bird is calling for an “Academy of Marketers” to help transform charities from donation-dependent bodies into self-sufficient businesses.

Bird, whose six-year-old Big Issue magazine has a 12m turnover, is calling for top marketers to donate their time and guide charities in the transition from handout dependent causes to self-funding companies.

The Big Issue is a tax-paying organisation, which uses its profit to help the homeless. It survives because its magazine is a viable product, says Bird.

He says other charities must seek to copy this business model, and break their reliance on public handouts, which he warns will dry up as Britain undergoes “giving fatigue”.

Bird is calling on major corporations to help steer that change. Instead of handing over large cheques to charities in exchange for a newspaper or TV plug, companies should be donating their marketing expertise, he says.

“I’ve got plenty of large cheques but I keep telling these people I don’t need your money, I need your expertise.”

Bird fears that the National Lottery handouts, which have enabled new charities to be set up, will cause long-term damage as more charities make demands on the public to fill coffers when Lottery money runs out. Unless vital marketing experience is sought, he says charities will be left stranded as funds, and compassion, are exhausted.

“There is not a charity in the country that could not be run as a social business. But marketing and business expertise is needed,” he adds.

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here