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Philanthropy by design

Technology & Data

Philanthropy by design


Carol Morris, general manager at UN LTD, looks at how charities and philanthropic foundations are redesigning themselves in an increasingly crowded not-for-profit sector.


Article theme badge DesignMarketing is crucial in order to stand out in any industry. The not-for-profit (NFP) sector is no different. Those who do it best attract the most valuable members, donors and investors.

Recent reports show an ongoing surge in charities registered by the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission or ACNC (2300 new registrants in 2013, up from 1200 the previous year), putting the total number of registered charities in excess of 60,000 (estimate based on JBWere 2013 ‘Australian Giving Trends’ and ACNC data.)

84% of NFP chief executives anticipate an increase in demand for their services over the next 12 months, yet are unsure of their ability to meet the demand (PwC-Centre for Social Impact Community Index 2014).

With so many different organisations competing for the goodwill dollar – many for the same cause, and with similar benefits and service offerings – it is now more than just a matter of great creative and emotive fundraising appeals to survive in the NFP sector.

And simply increasing the level of philanthropic funding is not the answer.


Raising the bar, not just funds

Charities, government funds and philanthropists alike have no choice but to innovate, design sustainable futures and identify new income streams.

NFPs and charitable foundations are now competing as social enterprises in a dynamic marketplace that rewards measurable social impact.

Design, as a business competency, is essential. The ability to provide a value exchange for donors and supporters is vital. Simply relying on the emotive connections or being considered a ‘worthy cause’ is no longer enough.

And the meaning of the ‘NFP’ label itself is shifting.

In actual fact, what is emerging, through the rise in social enterprise, is a new generation of ‘for profit, for purpose’ organisations.


For profit, for purpose

UN LTD was, by design, founded to generate profit for a very worthy purpose: to undo youth disadvantage in Australia by supporting highly creative and effective ‘off Broadway’ charity organisations.

After receiving a 400% increase in grant submissions this year, it’s clear that the youth NFP sector desperately needs our support in 2015. A common thread across the $7 million in application grants received was a very real threat of seeing a withdrawal or reduction in government funding.

The fact that we are the only foundation for our industry is not what makes us unique. What makes us unique is that UN LTD has been designed specifically to maximise the potential of our industry.


Creative commercialisation

This year over 40 of Australia’s top media companies have united behind the UN LTD movement, donating over $2 million in media inventory packages for 2015.

These media packages are monetised to directly fund programs and youth charities that are ‘UNdoing’ youth disadvantage in Australia.

Where media inventory is of more value to the charity than cash, we provide them with mainstream exposure on a scale they would never have been able to access through their own media spend.

In addition to the cash grants and advertising opportunities provided through donated media packages, we also provide mentoring and pro bono support.

The mentor program grew organically through ongoing and overwhelming requests from charities for access to marketing skills and services. What a marketing team does every day is quite often exactly the expertise greatly needed by our charity partners.

Our charities struggle with brand awareness and marketing, particularly in the digital age, and learning how to optimise their social media presence, which in turn makes it challenging for them to seek funding and build scale to reach more young people.

We want our charity partners to continue doing what they do best – changing young lives and giving them hope – and we want to help them by doing what our industry does best.


A ‘venture capitalist’ approach

In this new world of philanthropy, there’s a delicate balancing act between providing vital cash and creating a reliance on that funding – and supporting charities to become more sustainable.

We don’t see philanthropy as being just a ‘funding source’. Our role is always evolving around: building capacity, relationships, access to marketing and media expertise, promoting workplace giving, fundraising, volunteering and providing high-value mentoring.

UN LTD is taking a venture capitalist approach to philanthropy. Our charity partners need to demonstrate they have strategies in place to ensure sustainability. They need to be innovating and thinking entrepreneurially. Our role as a foundation is then to work with them to provide seed funding and access to the talent, commercial nous, creativity, intelligence and connections of our industry.

It’s by this design that we believe UN LTD can truly UNdo youth disadvantage in Australia.

By fostering a new breed of sustainable, entrepreneurial projects and enterprises with far-reaching social impacts for those young people who truly need it most.


Four charities UN LTD has supported to foster and grow entrepreneurial new self- sustaining social enterprises:


Charity: KidsXpress

Social enterprise: The Sandpit

On the days it’s not being used for children’s therapy the KidsXpress centre becomes ‘The Sandpit’, an experiential learning facility for corporates. The world-first programs adopt KidsXpress’ expressive ‘play therapy’ principles and connect them with leading learning and development expertise.


Charity: The Rare Earth Foundation

Social enterprise: Rare Earth Oils

The Rare Earth Foundation was set up to preserve and promote Indigenous culture through media, technology and the arts. Rare Earth Oils works with Aboriginal elders, youth and family groups to hand- harvest essential oils from the wild, creating a range of natural, Australian, ethically produced essential oil and beauty products.


Charity: Community Connections Australia

Social Enterprise: Jeenee Mobile

Jeenee is a disability help line with a profitable phone company attached. Profits are reinvested into developing mobile solutions for people living with a disability. About a quarter of its few thousand (so far) customers are disabled, and can ring the call centre for any reason at all.


Charity: Sydney Story Factory

Social enterprise: The Martian Embassy

The Martian Embassy is the retail arm of the Sydney Story Factory, a not-for-profit creative writing program for marginalised kids who are having learning difficulties. Students enter the writing centre through the shop which acts as a portal, transporting them to a place where new things are possible. You even need a tin of gravity on the way home.

Marketing is proud to have UN LTD as its not-for-profit content partner. UN LTD is the only not-for-profit philanthropic foundation representing the media, marketing and advertising community, and aims to harness the wealth, talent and influence of the industry, and channel this to support the most creative and innovative organisations that work with at risk young people. Visit the UN LTD website to get involved.



Carol Morris

Carol Morris’ career has largely been in the media communications industry. She was agency manager at Merchant and Partners, general manager at UM then executive director of the MFA before joining UN LTD as general manager in early 2013.

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