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Why we, as Social Profit Marketers, are Sheep in Wolves’ Clothes

Sam Verhaert
Marketing Strategist
Plant a Flag Vancouver, Canada
As marketers we are sometimes dealing with the image that we are greedy, hungry wolves. For this reason, social profit organizations are often not very keen to deal with us, marketers. But they should. Because, we too, are building a better world.

Old classmates of mine are often very surprised when we run into each other. “A mar-ke-ting agency, Sam?! I never would’ve thought…” In this scenario, this friend works for a social profit organization, and is not too pleased with my new employer.

But why not? Is it not aligned with my younger years as a optimistic pacifist? Was I too involved in youth organizations and sustainable development to make the move to marketing? I explained, very carefully, that I am still active in the world of social profit. And how my marketing agency, Plant a Flag, makes this radical choice.

Wolves of Wall Street

I did a little test in my direct surroundings. Most people associate marketers with the image of ‘selling air’. Marketers are seen as misogynistic Mad Men who try to sell lethal cigarettes to an unsuspecting crowd. The word itself explains everything, right? Marketing: cunning salespeople who market a product and who make a clear and obvious choice for ever-expanding capitalism.

They reframe marketing and sales into communication and donations

In all honesty, there are indeed Wall Street wolves in sheep’s clothing out there. When dealing with non-profits, they reframe marketing and sales into communication and donations. Or they’ll talk about social marketing much like social profit and the social economy. It just sounds more thoughtful. But, my high school friend is missing out on some amazing opportunities if she turns her back on marketing. I see it everyday with our clients in the social sector: marketing works. In an industry where time and money are scarce resources, marketing makes an enormous difference.

Survive with Social Gains

The challenges of NGOs, social organizations, and other non-profit initiatives are not slim. According to research agency Sector Source, Canada counted over 170,000 not-for-profit organizations on January 1st, 2018. A lot of these organizations are struggling to make ends meet. According to Ipsos, one in five NGO’s are dealing with financial difficulties. 17% of all organizations with fixed employees have been forced to let go part of their workforce. The University of Amsterdam recently calculated that the commercial income of charities is rising, while the generosity of donors is continuously shrinking compared to the GDP.

How can you achieve enough social profit in order to improve our society while also making sure that your business can survive?

So how do you deal with that? How do you keep an organization healthy and secure when profits are not your main KPI (key performance indicator)? How can you achieve enough social profit in order to improve our society while also making sure that your business can survive?

Curious how we plant flags for our non-profit clients?

Join our labs session on September 19 where we detail two recent non-profit cases. You will discover how we have created & executed a marketing plan which as resulted in local impact!



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Small Fish, Big Impact

Plant a Flag’s answer? Strategy. Currently, there are more opportunities and alternatives available than ever before to reach members, volunteers, and donors – call them your customers. It has become more important than ever to choose wisely. Basically, do less with more.

That’s why Plant a Flag works exclusively for small time players. A limited, but smart marketing effort can have an enormous impact with ‘little fish’ such as NGO’s and other impact-driven organizations. That is our strategic choice.

we steal marketing tricks from the big boys, in order to grow the small ones. We are Robin Hood in sneakers.

Plant a Flag believes the power of many little things can start something big. I read it everyday at our office, largely printed on our studio wall: “The next big thing will be a lot of small things”. It is our responsibility as marketers to collaborate on creating a better world.

And so, we steal marketing tricks from the big boys, in order to grow the small ones. We are Robin Hood in sneakers.

Next time I see an old classmate, I will present myself as a social activist. Or as a market(ing) activist. “Hi, I work at Plant a Flag, we are sheep in wolves’ clothes.”

Do you think they will be scared?

Do you want to grow you non-profit organization? Do you aim to increase society's profit? Thanks to our unique business model, social profit organizations receive an lower rate. This way, you are able to save time and means to make the world a better place. Would you like to sit down and have a chat with this strategical sheep? Write me at sam.verhaert@plantaflag.com, or book a brainstorm.

This illustration is done by the extremely talented Harriet Wouters.  We are continuously looking for illustrators for our Labs-articles. Give us a shout if you'd like to draw for us!