In the past years there has been a clear evolution of philanthropy in Latin America. Companies are daring to implement new forms of CSR like impact investing or commercialization of social goods, leaving behind traditional forms -primarily based on charity events. Although there is room for improvement, companies are now seeing CSR as central to their overall strategy and are adopting best practices from other regions.
In order to take advantage of companies’ need of real allies who can think outside the box, NGOs need more creative thinking to dare to innovate and achieve win-win outcomes. They also need to leave behind their resistance to embrace a more entrepreneurial and economic approach to philanthropy and be open to team up with companies to build strategic alliances.
Thinking creatively can bring benefits in many forms. Below, I will share two campaigns I was part of while working at Fundación Banco de Alimentos (Food Bank) in Buenos Aires, hoping they can serve as food for thought for peer organizations around the world. These include three key lessons that we have learned over time to improve fundraising campaigns:
- Get the Board on board: the Boards’ support and efforts during the process as well as their trust on the expected goals are key for the success of innovative campaigns
- Put yourself on your partner’s shoes: when designing the strategy of your collaboration, ask yourselves: What do they need? What value can you add to their business?
- Build the best team: believe in the power of innovation and creativity of your team and dare to swim against de tide
Banks working together – for good
Back in 2009, we launched our first direct marketing campaign in partnership with a retail bank. Banks at that time were having trouble activating and maintaining their credit card consumers. We thus seized this market opportunity and designed a plan that would help them revert their numbers… and ours.
The idea was simple: the Food Bank would have its own agents at the banks’ call centers offering costumers the possibility to make monthly donations to the Food Bank with their credit cards. In addition, and to show its commitment, the bank would match the customers’ donation. The bank’s objective was to activate credit cards with monthly expenditures. For the Food Bank, a successful campaign would bring new donors; for the bank, additional active clients.
As simple as the plan might sound, it was really ambitious for our team. We had to convince the Board and the retail banks, find the investors and learn how to execute a new type of campaign. It was not an easy path but it was definitely worth it. In only nine months we repaid our initial investment and results were outstanding. Our program was so successful that the campaign is still running today and has been replicated with other four retail banks in Argentina. To the present, the Food Bank has added more than 21.000 donors through this campaign, with a monthly recurrent income of USD12.000 and reduced the average age of our donors by 20 years. For the retail banks, the campaign was a total homerun too, with an 8% rate of positive responses and a high acceptance from executives and employees.
Building creative collaborations
Building partnerships are key for bolder impact. But what does this really mean?
In 2011 the Food Bank built a one of a kind collaboration with one of Argentina’s biggest rice producer, Gallo, and the show “Of All the People of the World”, organized by the English artistic group Stans’s café, based in London.
After extended discussions, we convinced Stan’s Café to bring the show to one of Buenos Aires’s most important museums. The show used grains of rice donated by Gallo to represent abstract statistics (like the populations of towns and cities) in an educational visually strong way to build awareness on the world’s most pressing challenges. The show received more than 20 thousand visitors and main media’s attention. In addition, the two tons of rice used in the show were afterwards donated to the Food Bank and further donations were made each time someone ‘liked’ the show’s Facebook page, which represented around over 3,000 plates of rice.
Corporate social responsibility has emerged as an inescapable priority for business leaders in most Latin American countries and NGOs must be ready to address this challenge. The time has come to think creatively and add value through cooperation between the business world and social organizations.