on old adage in the business world that says, "you
cant sell brotherhood like soap." Translation: the need for
necessary goods and services is constant, and thus a relatively
easy sales proposition. Marketing charitable organizations,
on the other hand, is a much more intangible process, and therefore
a harder sell.
Childrens Hospital in Columbus recently found itself faced
with a similar dilemma, that of understanding the motivations
and desires of its dwindling volunteer force, it was Fisher
College Marketing Professor Neeli Bendapudi who provided some
answers. Applying her years of research into nonprofit marketing,
she helped one of Columbus oldest health care landmarks keep
up with a constantly changing volunteer force.
to Bendapudi, until only recently, the thought of a "marketing
plan" for a nonprofit organization was considered taboo. "But
more and more," she says, "as government funding dries up and
the discretionary time volunteers have to give shrinks, nonprofit
organizations are being forced to develop more of a marketing
approach in order to survive."
in tandem with Fisher College MBA student Steve Kallister, Bendapudi
surveyed focus groups of volunteers to determine the root of
their motivation for donating time. "We found those motivations
to range from purely altruisticsimply volunteering for
the return of a good feelingto largely egoisticvolunteering
because of the individual attention that one might receive as
a result." Where many charitable and nonprofit organizations
fail, says Bendapudi, is that they fail to recognize those motivations
and match them with the subsequent volunteering activity. "If
someone is volunteering for self-centered reasonsand there
are many who doyou dont want them locked away in
a room stuffing envelopes. Theyll quit in a week or two.
That kind of volunteer needs to do more visible community work."
By understanding and applying Bendapudis findings, Childrens
Hospital was able to recruit, and more importantly, retain a
sizable volunteer base.
Bendapudis expertise was a small part of the Fisher Colleges
commitment to a direct, meaningful involvement with Central
Ohio community organizations. In addition to Bendapudis
pro bono involvement with Childrens Hospital, each
year a Fisher MBA class selects an area public grade school
where MBA students volunteer their time and efforts. "Academics
have been accused of living in an ivory tower for so long,"
says Bendapudi. "Its becoming increasingly impossible
for universities and businesses alike not to participate and
contribute to the good of the overall community."
bridges around the state and local community comes with a windfall
of additional benefits, according to Bendapudi. "We know now
that companies are beginning to see direct and indirect benefits
of having their employees volunteer their time to nonprofit
organizations. By working as and coordinating other volunteers,
it serves as an excellent training ground for many managers.
They can then take those experiences and apply them to their
day-to-day job to the overall benefit of the company."
Bendapudi says, "Its a slow process, but if we can instill
in business leaders of tomorrow the long-term benefits of giving
back to the community, well be so much better off in the long
run. And hopefully, its becoming an easier sell."
as easy as selling soap.