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.