Article written by Alex Butler, Big Society lead on the creative industries and civil society and originally posted on the Big Society Network blog on July 10th, 2011.
Every now and again I see something that makes me realise how lucky I am to have had a career in marketing. There's a great history of marrying causes to creative ideas in my profession, but this one is so good, it had to be worthy of special mention.
Marketing expert and social entrepreneur Paul Skinner recently launched Pimp My Cause as an open platform matching professional marketers, including strategists, innovators, advertisers, designers and developers with great non-profits and charities that they can support not with their wallets but with their talent and expertise.
The free service allows professionals and organizations to register their needs and interests and to find their own best match. Some charities are already beginning to pull together whole teams of support through the platform, effectively using it as a virtual or “open source” marketing department.
Alex Epstein, who featured in series 6 of BBC TV’s The Apprentice supported the launch as the first marketer to join the platform, and is already supporting a large national charity and a start-up social enterprise with his brand development and PR services.
After a month online, the platform now has nearly 100 charities signed up and over 200 professional members collaborating to market a better world. Early examples of work contributed through the site include a new digital campaign strategy for a regional office of the RSPCA, help producing a fundraising fashion show at an elite London venue for the Mayamiko Trust, and PR support for the social enterprise “I’m a person too!”. High profile advisers include aladin, the former co-chair of the Cultural Strategy Group for London and John Marsden, chair of Innvotec, the longest running independent venture capital firm in the UK.
The platform rests on the underlying premise that the work contributed through the site is of benefit both to the causes and the marketers.
Independent marketers and communications agencies have often been locked out of the chance to participate in formal pro bono schemes not through lack of incentive bur rather through lack of access. Pimp My Cause completely opens up the opportunity for them to find a great cause to get involved with, giving them a chance to make new connections, address new challenges and build their portfolio and reputation.
The opportunities are interesting for larger corporations and their marketing staff as well. Large businesses sometimes struggle to get sustainable innovation through their marketing department. But by collaborating on social and environmental projects on a pro bono basis for a few hours a week or a few days a year, corporate marketing teams can often learn more about social and environmental value than if they were to invest in attending expensive training courses. This benefits the business with their CSR and sustainability agenda, as much as the charities they support and can also be a great way to boost staff morale.
An early case study sheds light on some of the insights to have emerged so far from the work contributed through the platform. UK Youth is a mid-size national charity that supports around 750,000 young people every year through various programmes. Over the 100 years they have been in existence their focus has been on project delivery, with funding coming from the public purse. In the current climate, they are acutely aware of the need to diversify their sources of income and promote their activity and appeal to potential new backers and supporters. These will either be members of the public or corporate partners. Marketing and branding can be very costly, but UK Youth are working with experts through Pimp My Cause to look at ways that they can “leapfrog” expensive above the line brand building, skipping to more participative interactive initiatives. They are developing a whole new way of working and re-defining the role that marketing can play in helping them grow as an organization.
Pimp My Cause marketers are encouraging charities to see pro bono as part of a broader trend to leverage new and previously un-tapped external resources to support their mission. Whatever the size of charity, large or small, most of the world’s talent and resources lie outside its boundaries. Pro bono belongs alongside co-creation, co-production and social media initiatives as a means to efficiently and effectively achieve more than any organization can manage based on its internal resources alone.
Membership of Pimp My Cause is free for causes and for marketers – simply register at Pimp My Cause or write to Paul for further information. What are you waiting for…?