My favourite Ted talk – Dan Pallota: The way we think about charity is dead wrong

I am a big fan of Ted talk’s in general and have seen many that have resonated with me, inspired me, made me really think differently about the subject or touched me in some other way.  By far my favourite is Dan Pallota’s talk on the way we think about charity.

This talk was recommended to me by a contact of mine from the charity sector.  I specialise in Corporate Social Responsibility and whilst working for a FTSE listed business I had a meeting with a chap named Dave Ellis who was trying to recruit my then employer to become a corporate sponsor for the charity he works for.  Dave and I got on like a house on fire and soon began discussing previous roles and experience.  I found it really refreshing to hear that Dave had once been in the corporate world, working for soft drinks giant Coca-Cola.  My experience with charities (all those smaller than the big names we see and know very well) at that point had been a tad frustrating at times.  They really wanted to engage with big business but seemed to not know how to go about it and struggled to get an understanding of what a big business wants in return for hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of sponsorship.  (I am of course generalising here, that wasn’t true of every charity I met with, just the majority of them!)

Dave had some really refreshing ideas and completely got where we were coming from as a business.  This made me want to work with the charity even more and we soon discussed some really exciting and engaging projects that could prove fruitful and beneficial for us both.

After the meeting Dave sent me the link to the Dan Pallota talk and I was bowled over!  What a refreshing outlook.  Is this not the way the non-profit sector should be considered?  Why is that we as a society stick to what we call our ethics and question what a charities overheads are?  We want to know what proportion of our donation goes directly to the needy.  Why do we think that these essential overheads are not for the benefit of the needy?  If we can change the way we think, be a bit more business minded, then surely we could all see that to invest in ‘overheads’ would only increase the amount of funds we can actually raise.   In this talk Dan gives some interesting figures based on attracting talent from university leavers.  How could we ever expect them to take the same level job in the non-profit sector that pays just over 20% of the salary paid for the same level job in the for profit sector.  Yet that talent is what will grow business and make more money – would this growth not be better spent tackling social issues than filling the pockets of investors?

I have used this talk over and over again when dealing with people from the non-profit sector to encourage them to think differently.  Be a bit more business!  Challenge the norm and make a stand!  Dan Pallota is a fascinating man with a lot to say that I believe is worth listening to.  You can read more about his achievements and challenges on his website


Collette Butterworth is our Director and Principal Consultant and is the driving force behind the business. Collette specialises in the Transport sector (excuse the driving pun!) but also has a wealth of experience in the Training and Recruitment sectors. Before finding her current career in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Collette has always worked in businesses that were people focussed. She has a natural talent for relationship building and loves delivering training and developing individuals.