I rarely start my posts with a video, but this one is different, as you need to see the discussion point first! The things I see in the cancer sector have almost made me immune to the very tasteless advertising that comes from the charity giants within it. Boastful claims about what they do, deliberately using very emotive advertising to target vulnerable people. But as their income starts to dry up, I did feel it might be the start of a new way of working for them. To be fair, as families move from tragedy to tragedy there has been less of a focus, for two reasons. One, most of the world is focussed on covid. Secondly the money for multi million pound adverts is no longer there.
During the last year, most of which has been in lock down, we have heard very little from our friends at Cancer Research UK and Macmillan Cancer Support. Of course like all of us they are looking at what the future holds for them. More importantly where is their cash coming from, to keep those giant wheels turning?
I believe that like the rest of the world, the charity sector is changing dramatically. It was starting, before covid, with trust in several larger organisations being eroded due to mismanagement. But is accelerating now, with less cash being donated and people asking questions about what they receive for their money. The landscape is moving from national to community, with a larger emphasis on collaboration. Ensuring that resources are not wasted or duplicated. It’s no longer purely about income, but impact! What happens with the charity pound that is donated?
Of course there are issues that will be permanent in the world, like cancer, and we must find long term sustainable solutions. But also there are now temporary problems, mostly caused by covid. We now have small local organisations being created, not being bound by red tape who can wade straight in to help. Being both agile and innovative, without vast overheads. Hopefully, many of those won’t be required by next year, but they are necessary now, and are showing what can be achieved.
For those that aren’t aware I run my own charity SimPal, providing free digital communication to people affected by cancer. We have been going 4 years now and were aware of the increasing digital divide even then. This problem has got much worse highlighted by the virus. So many organisations are arguing about how to solve it sustainably, that very few are doing anything at all. Ours might only be like a ‘finger in the dam’ but we are doing what we can. I also have many friends in the sector doing incredible work, all of us with decreasing resource.
But as the flowers start to show their heads, and hopefully positivity coming through regarding covid injections, both our big charities can’t wait for the opportunity of returning to type! As usual, with national tv adverts asking for money. Of course if you don’t ask you don’t get. They have to look after their own organisations. But are almost the only two in the sector with the income to afford this! How has the sector managed, whilst they work out where their next penny is coming from? Simply because there are many more organisations doing great work that rarely gets mentioned!
Of course both do some incredible work, but I have to question whether they listen to the people they purport to support with their dubious fundraising challenges and advertising? I have always considered people affected by cancer as vulnerable, including myself. The importance of writing a will cannot be underestimated either, and some of us will need a nudge to do it. But I believe that the timing of these adverts is cynical. We are currently seeing more people dying daily than ever before, no coincidence in my opinion that these are now appearing!
I would also like to point out that there are also more than two charities in the sector, despite what we might be led to believe. They are doing incredible work, and some cannot even afford to advertise. Why don’t the big boys share that information, opening access to other resources for their supporters. Are they so frightened that they will take a slice of fundraising cake?
This post is written with my cancer patient hat on. The advertising I see from these giants does not sit comfortably with me at all. “Help us do whatever it takes.” Really!! “Let’s walk all over cancer” Sure!! Where have you been when we needed you most? Dreaming up the next campaign? Like all good causes we need money, and without fundraising there would be no help. Of course I get it, I’m in it! But why is the cancer world so fundraising heavy?
Most websites you visit you’re faced with big banners about raising money. In fact it is very hard to avoid. As a marketer I would be happy about that. But times are changing and people affected by cancer, deserve better than to be just a marketing statistic for the latest ask. Yes, many people genuinely enjoy the fundraising process and that’s great, a real win-win! But most are vulnerable, frightened people trying to stay alive and looking for help! Not the quickest route to their solicitor to make a will.
More people are dying than ever before, I believe these adverts are deliberately timed and in the longer term will do more harm than good to the sector. Of course, charity giving is a very personal thing, and you may totally disagree with my views. I would love to see what you all really think about this. Please feel free to join the discussion below.