2010 was a tough year financially for The Big Issue and 2011 is set to be equally challenging.
“We’re not alone, all NGOs across the world, and in South Africa in particular, are suffering the effects of the economic recession’s hangover,” said Trudy Vlok, managing director of The Big Issue South Africa.
“Competition for funding is fierce and funding from some of our key funders has all but dried up as they themselves struggle to keep afloat.”
Taking an optimistic approach to the daunting task of keeping The Big Issue out of the red, Vlok said she is viewing the financial slump as a challenge and an opportunity for the NGO to become more aggressive in generating its own funding.
Income from magazine sales already enables The Big Issue to be almost 50% self-funded — an anomaly among the donor-reliant NGO community of South Africa — and Vlok plans on pushing the organisation to greater levels of self-sufficiency over the coming year.
“This is the only way forward in the current economic climate,” she stressed. “The days of sitting around waiting for funding are long gone; NGOs have to be pro-active and we plan to lead that trend.”
Vlok said The Big Issue had an advantage in that it has an established vehicle — the magazine — to generate its own funds. “Sticking to our ethos of ‘a hand up, not a hand out’, we’re not bringing out the begging bowl. Rather, we’re in a position to use our quality magazine to offer win-win partnerships,” she explained.
Where the NGO does need help, she said, is getting the word out. “That’s where you, the reader, the lifeblood of The Big Issue come in. We need all readers to become actively involved in the new Word of Mouth campaign,” said Vlok.
The campaign will measure the financial result of readers and supporters of The Big Issue spreading the word, quite literally.
Readers can follow one or all five steps to participate in the campaign (see right) and for a three-month period watch how their participation is helping the NGO earn its own income via a barometer.
Additional funds from new corporate partnerships, sponsorships, advertising and increased magazine sales from the end of February to the end of May will be measured by the barometer, which will be published in each edition.
“The best part of this campaign is that it’s really easy to help, and even small gestures by our individuals supporters will go a long way to ensuring the sustainability of The Big Issue and the around 400 vendors who make their livelihood from selling the magazine,” said Vlok.
How YOU can help spread the word
1.Convince three friends, colleagues or family members to buy the magazine regularly. Once you’ve reached your target, email their names to firstname.lastname@example.org for our new “reader hall of fame”. Please make “Word of Mouth” the subject line of the email.
2.Go viral: Tweet and Facebook your messages of support for The Big Issue followed by the campaign hash tag #WordOfMouth
3.Make an instant donation via our SMS line. SMS “TBI DONATION” to 35522. SMS charged at R3 each
4.Advertise in The Big Issue (contact email@example.com / 021-461-6690) and/or suggest to your company, suppliers or friends that they advertise in the magazine
5.Become a CSI partner — we value all partners, big or small. The Big Issue can also offer corporate subscriptions and produce corporate-sponsored special editions and supplements.