Since its inception, the concept of ‘purpose’ has been predominantly reserved for the private sectors. It’s now common rhetoric used to help brands unify around a common goal – something that goes far beyond profit.
But, what we’re seeing from our clients and contacts is that this concept is becoming far more common amongst the charity sector too, with many non-profit organisations acknowledging a need to refresh their own purpose and values.
As charitable organisations are defined by the social cause they’re working towards, one might struggle to see the need for this change and this need to adopt ‘business’ language, as unnecessary. But maybe that’s just it – as businesses become more socially responsible, some charities are feeling their own core reason for existence being threatened by organisations that often have far greater funds and more resources.
As a recent report from PwC suggested: “Just as businesses are considering their wider societal impact and purpose, charities too need to consider their impact and the relevance of their actions.”
From our experience of working in the sector, and from what we’ve heard on the charity grapevine, this is already happening. We’ve worked with the likes of Crisis, Big Change and Paul Hamlyn Foundation (and many more) on exactly this concept. Some organisations like Scope, are even openly speaking out about their moves to become a ‘social purpose organisation’.
From what we’ve heard – and as Scope’s CEO Mark Atkinson acknowledges when he says “we want to be an organisation that attracts talented, values-driven people who can embrace new technology and who are motivated by social impact” – this isn’t just about ensuring the organisation has the greatest impact on the world and restoring public trust. By adopting the concept of purpose, charities are acknowledging the potential threat on their ability to attract the very best talent too.
Those of us who were traditionally attracted by the social missions of the charity sector, now have greater choice. Look at all of us who’ve joined Kin&Co, brought together by our desire to make a positive impact on the world; all of us have chosen to work for a private sector organisation when we could have easily opted to work in-house within a charity.
Those who are driven by purpose – which research suggests is increasingly common especially amongst the younger generations – are no longer restrained to the social or public sectors. We only need to look at the rise of young people opting to join purpose-driven start-ups or the emergence of cross-sector purpose focused graduate schemes from our friends at Koreo, to see this concept in action.
But this doesn’t mark the end of charities’ relevance. Far from it. Charities with a strong, unique and relevant purpose have the ability to refine and unify their strategy, engage their employees in a way they never have before, and attract the best new talent. And all for the ultimate goal of maximising their impact.
To quote Atkinson, this is about “doing less, reaching more and having a greater impact“.
To find out more about our work helping charities to find and embed their purpose and values, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.