This year is the 30th anniversary of when I began working in the voluntary sector (if you count volunteering in a Barnardo’s charity shop instead of going to a year’s worth of art history lectures!). So by now I thought I would know what the third sector needs.
It seems I was wrong, as I found out when I saw the results of 5000+ searches on Amazon over the last month. I have been running adverts on the site to promote my book (which you must know by now is available here etc!). I had carefully chosen search terms that match the topics covered in the book. I could have saved myself the bother – of the 50+ words and phrases I selected, only four have really matched what people were looking for!
|Amazon search term||Number of impressions||% of sales|
|Governance, board, trustee||661|
|Leadership (mission-drive, sustainable, non-profit)||509|
|Monitoring, evaluation, performance||203||10%|
|Organisational sustainability, resilience||56|
It’s no surprise that the most common search is for books relating to funding – my advert has appeared over 3000 times in response to people looking for that. We all know that times are tough for charities, social enterprises and public bodies. But to outperform other hot non-profit topics like governance and leadership by a ratio of 5:1 was really surprising.
So, if times are tough, isn’t it surprising that people don’t seem to be looking for information on organisational sustainability and resilience? I’m not sure. Surveys on the state of the sector (whether from membership bodies like NCVO, SCVO, CCPS and ACOSVO or funders like those in Scotland’s Funders’ Forum) have identified sustainability as the number one challenge for some time now. And mostly, this is the word that is used to describe the challenge of having fewer resources to meet increased demand, so I don’t think it’s necessarily a question of language.
Instead, our experience of leading efforts to explore and understand the issue over the last five years is that people do indeed think that funding and fundraising are the answer.
I don’t think that’s wrong, but I think it’s only partly true. It’s easy to think of examples, perhaps from your own career, of organisations that have had plenty of funding but were unsustainable because of toxic management practices, ineffective governance, poor morale, lack of staff training and support…and so the list goes on. Money is a very important part of sustainability, but it’s certainly not the only one.
Where does the money come from? From relationships, from knowledge of the sector, from staff skills in identifying needs, spotting opportunities. It comes from having compelling evidence of need, being able to show impact and effectiveness. It comes when we involve our partners and participants. And it requires us to innovate and improve, getting betterall the time. Which is why I have changed my advert and book description to help more people are searching for ‘funding’! Once they’ve got the book they can learn more about five capabilities of sustainable organisations listed above and why money alone won’t solve anything.
Other learning from promoting the book
It sells much better in paperback than as a Kindle ebook.
Paperback to Kindle ratio 10:1
It sells well overseas. So far we’ve shipped to Europe and Africa, but the book is doing particularly well in the US.
UK to US ratio 1:1
What people are not looking for! The search terms that returned fewest hits.
(US and UK spellings used)
- board development
- budget management
- charity management
- charity support
- growth strategies business
- impact measurement
- marketing for nonprofit organizations
- marketing strategy
- mission driven leadership
- non-profit board
- non-profit financial
- non-profit leadership
- nonprofit management books
- organisational change, development and transformation
- organizational capabilities
- organizational survival
- performance measurement
- performance measurement and control systems for implementing strategy
- policy innovation
- proving and improving
- public sector
- stakeholder management
- stakeholder theory concepts and strategies
- strategic planning for public and nonprofit organizations
- strategy development
- sustainable organizations
- sustaining change in organizations
- third sector management
- third sector organisation
- understanding voluntary organizations
- voluntary organisation