Why should NGO turn into business?

I’ve been receiving newsletters from many animal rights & welfare organizations, and I really appreciate their effort to preventing animal abusing and promoting animal welfare. But these days a letter made me worried about NGO in China.

The letter came from a local organization I’ve never heard of. It’s been supporting itself by various donation in the past, but recently it’s lack of money and ask for help. I was a little bit sad when it reminded me of the animal welfare NGOs I’ve been operating for several years.

The first problem is that it’s really hard to get support from people around you. Just imagine how it is like when a small group of young students protesting “Eating Dog” in North-East China, where “Dog Hot Spot” is a long-time traditional dish.

The second and even bigger problem is money. You do need money to print promotion materials, to rent stuff & equipment for campaigns, even to provide foot and lodge for animals getting hurt or lost. There are tens of such NGOs in Beijing and still growing everywhere in China, but no one can escape from this reality.

2 years ago, I took a visit to a animal activist in Beijing, with over 100 dogs and cats in her home. Everyday she has to pay over $150 USD just for animal’s daily food, needless to say other costs like medicine when they are ill. She has sold her house in center district and take care of those animals full time. It’s a really touching story, but what should she do when the money is burnt out again?

I believe NGO is a necessity of a healthy society, but one thing fatal is: Turn NGO into Business.

There is a huge different between Chinese NGOs and western NGOs: Most Chinese NGOs never speak out for itself until it’s running out of money; while on the other side, western NGOs are so good at Public relation, digging every chance and employing every channel to be a cover story, to be on TV shows, to protest or be protested, to sue powerful organizations or be sued by them, to be a common signal on media, to make everyone know its existance. Damn! What a good trick here!!!! Everyone tends to donate money when a famous guy is in need. It’s human nature!

In other words, a smart NGO should make itself a distinct Cultural Signal, and find those people who match the signal. GreenPeace did bunch of famous events(towards government or big companies) to show the world that GreenPeace is an extreme but really cool NGO. Now there are 2.8 Million young people are proud of being a member of it, and every year billions of US dollars are going to Greenpeace office as donations. Mozilla Fundation is also taking advantage of its crazy fans (including me) by turnning itself into a unique presentative of “Open, Safe, Stable” network life. I’m so willing to spend $30 to buy a Firefox Tee right now.

In fact, GreenPeace is a special case if we talk about donation since it refuse any donation from government or commercial organization, just to keep itself neutral. Most wester NGOs, however, like WWFIFAW, WSPA, have great fundrasing lessons to teach its members how to connect with media, to get cooperation with commercial parties, how to get sponsor from others and give them reward, and how to bring benefits to all sides. This is what Chinese NGOs should learn.

It reminds me of a quite impressive case in China: Fenbid, a pain-releasing medicine made by GlaxoSmithKline, featured a Chinese volunteer in its wild spreading advertisement, who spend his whole time taking care of 103 orphans in rural area and teaching them everything. This is a successful case of how to integrate charity with commercial.

Without an effective plan and resources, it’s really irresponsible to create an NGO just with passion.

Chinese version of this post: NGO与商业化

NGO与商业化

几年来一直接收中国动物权利组织的群信,也一直在精神上支持他们在防止动物虐待事业上的义举。但最近收到的一封信,引起了我关于NGO的思考。信件来自山东防止虐待动物协会的求助,这个协会一直依靠各种渠道的无偿资助来维系着,如今资金短缺,又没有经济来源,只好再次发信求助,希望有人资助。

看到这封信,我心里很不好受,自己以前也做过动物福利、动物权利组织,因此更加清楚,其实这类NGO真的很难做,首先是民众不支持,想象一下一小群势单力薄的学生在狗肉火锅盛行的东北地区公开举横幅反对吃狗肉,将是怎样一种勇气?这还是小事,最关键的问题还是运作资金。从印刷宣传材料、租用活动道具器材,到更现实的为流浪动物提供生存场所和食物、医疗等,都需要钱。北京的动物保护组织,大大小小几十家,全国各地也都在逐渐兴起这个建立民间动物保护组织的氛围,这是好事,但每一家都无法逃避资金问题。

曾经在北京的郊区参观过一个动物保护人士的家,收养了上百只流浪狗和流浪猫,光每天的狗粮猫粮就要超过一千元人民币,更不用说生病吃药了。主人已经为此变卖了北京市区的房产,全职照顾这些动物。很感人的故事,但无法避免的现实是,以后的资金怎么办?

社会不能缺少正义的NGO,但是NGO想要长久运作,该何去何从?答案只有一个:商业化运作。

既然要做一个事业,就要按照做事业的样子来做。观察一下国际上健康存在的几个大NGO,几乎也都靠捐赠而存在,看上去和国内的NGO没什么区别。但仔细看,会发现有个非常不同的地方:中国的很多NGO,平时不声不响,等资金短缺、需要帮助了,才出来大吼一声“捐助我吧”,完全没人理会;国外的NGO正好相反,平时尽可能自我炒作,一般都有一个强大的部门负责媒体企业公关,平时就经常找机会上杂志封面,上电视台,搞采访,搞抗议,搞诉讼,搞的鸡飞狗跳,让所有人都知道它们的存在,只要成名就必然会有粉丝,成名之后再开口要钱,自然有很多人乐意捐赠。人心就是如此,这在国内外都是一样的。

再进一步来说,成功的NGO应该把自己塑造成一种文化符号,并迅速找到匹配这个符号的人群,达到高速扩张。比如GreenPeace,这个“又极端又很酷”的环境保护组织,通过一些列的知名的极端事件(尤其是针对知名企业和政府的自杀式抗议),迅速树立起了自己的品牌形象,笼络了一大堆年轻人,现在全球有280万人以自称绿色和平成员而自豪,每年的捐赠高达几千万美金;再比如Mozilla基金会,喜欢firefox的人简直就跟迷信宗教一样迷信firefox,可以说firefox的传播,99%都是粉丝的功劳,当然,最关键的1%则是Mozilla团队高明的运作策略,让firefox成为了“开放、安全、稳定”的网络文化符号。一旦成为一个文化符号,像GreenPeaceMozilla基金会那样的,光卖卖T恤衫就赚了好多钱。

事实上,GreenPeace还算是个特例,为了保持中立行,坚决不接受政府和企业的捐赠,而更多的成功NGO,比如WWF, IFAWWSPA等,都有专门的fundraising课程培训,教授如何跟企业合作搞来资金,如何跟媒体合作形成双赢,两者又相互促进。而国内的部分NGO负责人,也许是对这种运作方式有抵触心理,宁可花365天去照顾小猫小狗,也不愿意抽出时间研究一下如何更好地运作。比如:找谁要钱,如何提供回报,如何各取所需,形成良性的利益链。我觉得这是一个失策。

举个国内的例子,芬必得最近做的一期广告,主角是一个收养了103个孩子的志愿教师。通过这起商业运作,双方都得到了自己最需要的价值。

除了一腔热情以外,没有任何资源和商业运作的计划,就建立一个NGO组织,是非常不负责任的决定。