Charities get cheaper marketing services

The team behind social enterprise Make The Change (clockwise from bottom left): designer Ashley Granadoz, junior art director Xiner Yeo, marketing manager Ray Chia, and co-founders Pedro Aguirre and Michelle Lim.
The team behind social enterprise Make The Change (clockwise from bottom left): designer Ashley Granadoz, junior art director Xiner Yeo, marketing manager Ray Chia, and co-founders Pedro Aguirre and Michelle Lim.PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES

Rise in number of volunteers offering help for free or at subsidised rates

Marketing services usually do not come cheap. Producing a short video could cost about $3,000, while a large poster comes with a price tag of a few hundred dollars.

But more charities, which used to baulk at how much it costs to get the word out on their cause, are now getting these services - from photography to copywriting to designing of marketing collaterals - for free or at subsidised rates.

This is because of a growing number of volunteers from the industry offering their time and services.

Social enterprise Make The Change (MTC), a spin-off from Chatsworth Medi@rt Academy and which offers marketing services to charities and businesses, has seen its pool of volunteers with design skills rise from 25 in 2013 to more than 120 now. Most of them are staff or students from the academy.

MTC offers its services to charities at up to half its commercial rates. About a quarter of its projects are done pro bono and these are usually for smaller charities with smaller funding.

Co-founder Michelle Lim said: "Our model helps clients on a shoestring budget in achieving their social missions."

Pro bono creative agency Creatives for Causes has also seen more people come forward to volunteer, from 180 last year to about 350 now. Three in five are students.

Founder Jeraldine Phneah believes the rapid growth is due to growing awareness of volunteer opportunities. Its Facebook page was launched last September.

She said: "Students see this as an opportunity to use their skills for a good cause, build their portfolio, make contacts in the industry and meet other volunteers."

More charities are tapping this new source of help. MTC worked with 14 organisations in 2013, and 20 last year. The first five months of this year has seen 19 agencies approach it for help.

Creatives for Causes, which has helped about 40 charities since it was formed in late 2012, used to receive requests once a month. Now it is once a week.

Demand is expected to grow. A study last year by consultancy Bain & Company, in partnership with the Centre for Non-Profit Leadership, showed that two-thirds of non-profit organisations ranked marketing and communications among the top three areas that they have the "largest expertise and resource gap" in.

Mr Fermin Diez, deputy chief executive at the National Council of Social Service, said: "As the charity sector expands, organisations have to step up their game and look for innovative ways to market their causes to prospective donors."

Mr Cayden Woo, a manager at Chen Su Lan Methodist Children's Home, which cares for children from disadvantaged families, approached several design schools to get help at low or no cost in producing a video to be screened at its annual family night.

"We wanted to try something new, and one of the best ways to tell parents and our partners what we do is through film," he said.

Ngee Ann Polytechnic referred him to Creatives for Causes. Volunteers then helped to produce a short video of interviews with children at the home, talking about their activities at the home and their dreams.

"The video was very good, very professionally done. This would have usually cost us at least $2,000," said Mr Woo.

Volunteers are glad to be able to use their skills for a good cause.

Mr Richard Lua, a volunteer from MTC and founder of creative agency Dalmatian, said: "Others have given to me and this is my way of giving back to society."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 28, 2015, with the headline 'Charities get cheaper marketing services'. Print Edition | Subscribe