Thursday, November 01, 2007


Marketing an NGO

NGO Marketing

By Harish Bijoor

Q: As one who is engaged in fund-raising for a well-known nature conservation NGO I find that the competition here is almost as severe as it is where the private sector is an active participant. Specifically, the competition is mainly from fellow-NGOs who predominantly are focused on human-centric issues such as child development, caring for old age, cancer patients, etc. which, in a country like ours, naturally take precedence over others when it comes to patronage.

I would appreciate if you could share your thoughts and ideas as to how our NGO could position itself such as to elicit a more positive response from the corporates and others.



A: Dear KVL, I do emote with the problem just as you do. India is indeed the land of the LCD (lowest common denominator) issue at large, when it comes to fund-raising. Our issues in these categories are so large that most other issues get swept under the carpet, however honorable..

It is very important for you to be completely data-based in this exercise of fund raising. One must remember what happened with Tsunami relief. There was so much of money out there that one did not know what to do with it, without wastage and sub-optimal utilization hitting the category.

It is important for you to build a hierarchy of needs across the various causes that dot our land. It is equally important for you to address fund raising for your specific cause as a very specific campaign that is dealt out 1:1.

I would advise a very quick re-orientation of your target, away from the Corporates and focused very clearly on individuals.

I do believe the era of Corporate Social Responsibility is and should be on the wane. What will emerge as an exciting alternative is ISR. Individual Social Responsibility. A situation where the money-empowered individual who sits right atop Maslowe’s hierarchy of needs in terms of his own economic status, is all ready to self-actualize. It is this individual who is self-actualizing who will be the prime donor to your cause.

Identify these specifically, and market to them 1:1. Move away from any focus on the Corporate organization altogether. Focus on the individual. And look at large numbers of these self-actualizing individuals. And segment them. You will find a whole host of individuals who emote with the cause at hand.

Q: There is Yoga from India and then there is the IIT. What is your take on these global brand concepts from India?

-Shashi Sinha, Kolkata

A: Shashi, I do believe these are essentially Big Ideas. Big thoughts that emanate out
of India, traverse the continents all around, and establish themselves as
solid brands of the present and the future.

My definition of the brand is a simple one. "The brand is a thought". A
thought that lives in peoples minds.

Each of these, Yoga, the IIT, the IIMs, individual spiritual Gurus and their branded
outputs, such as TM, are all but thoughts. Potent thoughts that live in
peoples minds. These thoughts are solid manifestations of people’s needs,
wants, desires and aspirations.

These are indeed global brand concepts that emanate out of India. They take
birth here, but quite like Yoga, they are far bigger and far more profitable
brands out in the West.

Each of these brands has a global momentum of their own for sure. Take
Yoga. It is a multi-billion dollar industry. The practitioners of this
absolutely large industry are largely not of Indian origin alone.

And then there are thoughts such as the IIT. The BPO is another such
thought. Outsourcing. These are powerful brands on their own as well.

The benefit of these brands is that they are created not in the manner that
typical brands are created. They are mostly viral brands. They happen
through the editorial route, rather than the advertised route. They are
content dependant rather than hype dependant.

Brands can be created in one of two manners. Top down, or Bottom up. Top down
branding is all about creating a brand from scratch with investments in
Market research, branding and advertising. Colgate has been built this way.

And the second way of building brands is bottom-up. This is a process where
the utility or the merit of the work of the entity counts a lot. Mahatma
Gandhi was built bottom up. Gandhiji did not take full page ads in
newspapers saying "Gandhi Shining"! instead, Gandhiji the brand happened by
sheer dint of hard work at the ground level. The Dandi Salt March, the
non-violence movement, the Khadi movement, et al! Gandhi the brand was
built bottom up.

Brands built bottom-up have a longer life-span than those that depend on the
ICU inputs of advertising and continuous doses of marketing insulin.

Brand built bottom-up are popularized by a mass movement of consumer
acceptance that does not necessarily depend on advertising. The factor of
trust is deeper in these brands than in those brands that are built

One other aspect of these macro brands is the fact that they are not
necessarily brands that enjoy a B2B relationship. These brands are not about
B2C relationships as well. They are all about C2C relationships. Consumer to
consumer relationships that help build long lasting brand properties.

Q: Can we continue to export agricultural commodities in bulk? Please explain the opportunities that exist for export of branded products.

-Rohit Vadda, Ahmedabad

Rohit, I think we can continue to do bulk exports. But not bulk-exports as usual. Instead, branding must seep in aggressively into Bulk exports as well.

Take coffee as an example. The new big market out there in the consuming countries of the world is liquid coffee. The most convenient coffee of them all. A convenient form that beats soluble coffee by a mile in terms of quality and taste.

India has immense opportunity of becoming a bulk supplier of the liquid form. It is however important to do this in a branded bulk format. If we continue to focus on green coffee as we have done over these hundred and odd years, and if we keep the blinkers on when it comes to new opportunities, we will be left behind in the race.

It is important to export in bulk forms. The new bulk form of export will and should however be the branded-bulk form.

Harish Bijoor is a business strategy specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.


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