Big Issue moves to dispel charity status myth

The Big Issue is preparing to launch a campaign to highlight it is a social enterprise business and dispel the myth it is a charity venture.

Big Issue
Big Issue: It’s not a charity.

The print and outdoor campaign, created by M&C Saatchi, positions Big Issue sellers as independent retailers facing the same business challenges as other small retailers such as cash flow, product marketing, customer relations and competition, and asks people to support their ‘local business’.

It aims to better communicate the Big Issues offers homeless people a chance to earn a legitimate income and that each vendor has to buy their stock of magazines at £1.25 per copy – half the cover price – before selling them to make a profit.

Lara McCullagh, Big Issue marketing and communications director, told Marketing Week it aims to reach a segment of younger consumers who are not familiar with the organisation’s business model and wrongly assume it is a charity.

McCullagh says: “It’s inevitable for people [who were] around 21 years ago when Big Issue launched, it was such a unique idea and launched with such fanfare, that it’s stayed with people. Twenty years on, there’s a whole new audience – quite understandably – that are making assumptions that just because we’re working with homeless people that this is a charity. There’s bound to be increasing numbers of people who aren’t familiar with the brand history.”

She adds it is also a good time to remind people Big Issue is one of the foremost social enterprises in the UK.

“I think social enterprise can seem a bit abstract to the average consumer so it’s important to articulate what happens in our model. Social enterprise doesn’t just mean we use our profits responsibly, it means work and opportunity are inherent within our model – there’s no charitable aspect to it as a business,” she says.


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