What non-profits can learn from the cannabis industry
By John Paul de Silva – originally published on Hopeful Inc.
Whatever your personal beliefs are regarding cannabis usage and cannabis legalisation in Canada, one thing is clear. Cannabis is big business and so much so that a panel was built around the subject matter at the 2019 Smith School of BusinessScale-Up Summit which was recently held in downtown Toronto. After attending the panel, I noticed that there are many similarities between the cannabis industry and the non-profit sector.
First, they’re both highly regulated by the government. Second, they’re both worth billions. Michael Garbuz of Materia Ventures, a panelist at the Summit, said cannabis is worth over $100 billion in market capitalization worldwide. That’s a lot of green (pun intended). Similarly, over $10 billion is donated annually by Canadians alone.
With this in mind, here are some key takeaways on what non-profit organizations can learn from the cannabis sector:
1. Data is important: Summit panelist Afshin Mousavian of Responsible Cannabis Use has collected over 35,000 data points about Canadian public perception of cannabis. Why? There’s power in knowledge, especially with that much data. With that information, everyone from public policy makers to cannabis producers can better serve the market. Similarly, your non-profit should consider better collecting, managing, and analyzing its data. In turn, you can make more effective decisions on who to target for fundraising and which social media channels are the best use of your time, for example.
2. Education is important: Mr. Garbuz said that education is required to dispel the myths and stereotypes around cannabis usage. Similarly, I’ve encountered non-profits who have had challenges in gaining community support because of the misconception of what they are doing for the community. For example, a youth organization that had after-school programs was seen as a “hang out spot for troublemakers.” This negatively affected donations to the organization. Educating the community on your mission through transparent messaging and open houses, for example, creates conversations and increases education to bolster support for your non-profit.
3. Branding is important: Michael said that most people can’t tell the difference in quality between cannabis products, therefore the importance of brand building to help differentiate increases. The same can be true for some non-profits who are experiencing the effects of donor fatigue. For example, you might be a non-profit that is helping kids with cancer but have the challenge of getting through to those who are already donating to SickKids Foundation. They’re a great charity, but are you clearly communicating how you’re different? Ensure this is coming across through the development of your brand.
Are there any other key takeaways you’ve noticed from the cannabis sector which can help non-profits? Comment below and please share this post with your colleagues and friends. Thank you!
Coming to #AFPCongress2019? Don’t forget to check out our sessions on cannabis and the non-profit sector:
- Y-06: The Cannabis Conundrum – How Charities are Addressing the Cannabis Donor – Presented by Anne (Coyle) Melanson & Diana McLachlan
- G-10: Lessons in Pot – What Have we Learned about Combining Charities and the Cannabis Industry a Year after Legalization? – Presented by Sam Laprade, CFRE