By Voula Tsoflias, Ambassador for Corporate Sponsorship at Bounce Forward. Writer of psychological fiction and non-fiction psychology
“Philanthropy is the market of love.” Dan Pallota author of Uncharitable. Listen to his Ted Talk here.
Eight months ago, when Lucy Bailey, CEO of Bounce Forward suggested I volunteer as their Ambassador for Corporate Sponsorship it took me the length of a single heartbeat to say YES! I had known Lucy and the charity since their inception in 2009. I had trained in their methods, been accredited by Professor Martin Seligman of University of Pennsylvania, and had been a freelance member of their training team for eight years, facilitating the training of UK teachers to teach the skills of psychological fitness to children from aged nine years old.
So, this was a cause and a leader that I could really get behind.
Looking back, I didn’t have much idea of what, in practice, I was signing up to. It’s been a steeper learning curve than I’d anticipated. My career as a corporate psychologist taught me a lot about how the corporate world works. But my knowledge of how charities worked was zero, and my knowledge of the interface between corporations and charities was even lower than that.
Fortunately, I was helped along the way by the extraordinary and heart-warming generosity of the amazing people in the charity world, who gave up so much of their valuable time to meet with me and basically provide informal masterclasses in the world of charity. It would have taken me months, years, or maybe never to learn as much as I have. A particular shout out to Helen Pitcher (President of Kids Out), Stuart Fletcher (Trustee of Pancreatic Cancer UK) and Simon Linares (Chairman of Dreams Come True), all veterans of serving charities alongside their successful corporate careers. Also, Matt Kingdon (?WhatIf!? and Accenture) who challenged me to think boldly, and who expertly singled out the unique features of Bounce Forward, to create a compelling narrative. Not to mention Lucy Bailey and her brilliant team, and the trustees of Bounce Forward, all of whom have patiently helped me beyond measure from the outset. My incessant questions must have driven them crazy.
Startling facts …
There are approximately 170 thousand registered charities in England and Wales as of 2021 with a total financial turnover (that’s charity giving of all kinds) of £84billion. We are truly a generous nation.
However, the vast majority of charities are tiny:
- 104 thousand charities struggle on turnover less than £25k
- 30 thousand charities survive on between £25k and £100k
- 23 thousand charities get by on between £100k and £500k (Bounce Forward is in this category)
- 10 thousand charities manage on between £500k and £5m
- 3 thousand charities have a healthy turnover above £5m
Charitable donations from philanthropic foundations, government grants and other organisations often focus their giving on charities of a certain size. As in charity, so in life: the more money you have, the more thou shalt receive… or so it seems. Small charities must dedicate much of their time and energy to raising funds in order that they can continue their good works; but they are under resourced and very vulnerable, keeping going largely on the goodwill of volunteers.
Charities are businesses…..
Charities are advised, quite rightly to run as businesses. However they have a handicap when compared to business operations: they are not expected to have overheads or to raise investment for growth. Dan Pallotta, author of the illuminating book Uncharitable, points out this paradox: most donors want their gifts to go directly to the charitable frontline. Yet the frontline can’t develop and grow without a strong solid foundation to back it up. This is a serious dilemma faced by many charities as they attempt to grow; and perhaps why 104k charities in the UK flounder with turnover of less than £25k to fulfil their charitable goals.
“….. society’s non-profit ethic undermines our ability to eradicate great problems, and, ironically, puts charity at a severe disadvantage to the for-profit sector at every level. We have two rule books; one for charity, and one for everything else. This economic apartheid denies charity the powerful tools of capitalism, while everyone else is permitted to use them without restraint.” Dan Pallotta
How can Bounce Forward grow?
As we, at Bounce Forward, aim to accelerate our growth this is one of the challenges we face: the difficulty of raising the funds we need to fuel our growth. We have a very specific tangle: more than half of our income comes from schools who pay us to train their teachers to teach our syllabus. (It is known that high quality teaching is crucial to the success of psychological fitness development.) We need to influence schools to use our methods; and school budgets operate on an annual cycle. So in Year One of our growth plan we must put in the marketing time and effort to ensure that, from Year Two onwards, we have a steady flow of schools signed up to our Healthy Minds programme year on year. And we need to maintain that marketing to achieve the pace we are aiming for.
We also need to employ a full time ‘fund raising’ manager, to develop a steady flow of donations and to interface with our corporate sponsors. After year one, a successful fund raiser would raise sufficient funds to cover their own costs as well as up to ten times that in charity giving. But we need help to fund that first year.
The biggest learning ….
It has moved me deeply to understand and to witness that the UK charitable sector, with all its struggles and dilemmas, is fuelled by love, passion and, sometimes, heartbreak.
Philanthropy truly is the market for love. Fortunately, love never dies.
A request for help
If you would like to support us in Year One of our growth plan we would love to hear from you.
If you are ready to help personally, you can support us now, view our donation options here.
Or, if you are interested in discussing corporate sponsorship, see our Corporate Sponsorship Pack and/or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
A final thought: if we could raise £9m, every child in our country could be taught Bounce Forward lessons as part of their core education with professionally trained teachers. Wouldn’t that be amazing?