Cheryl Cole Foundation: The most important 3 words

It’s off to a great start. But trouble ahead? Here’s what it should do.

In its first year, Cheryl Cole’s Foundation is teaming up with the Prince’s Trust.


New donors almost always do well to partner with existing donors and existing charities. They get to learn without making mistakes of their own, and to piggy-back on existing infrastructure so get work done at very low cost. And given Ms Cole’s unsurprising focus on disadvantaged young people in Britain’s North-East, the Prince’s Trust will be a great teacher.

Trouble ahead?

Less cheery are hints on the Foundation’s website about plans after the first year. There’s talk of charities being able to “apply” to the Foundation which will post “a short application form to complete and all applicants will be asked to send in their accounts”.

This sounds like bad news because it sounds like gearing up to create a new infrastructure – to seek applications, make charities fill in forms, consider applications, make grants, monitor them….

Why? LOADS of grant-makers already exist and have that infrastructure. Piggy-backing on somebody else’s makes sense for new donors, and it makes sense for any donor.

Ms Cole, here’s what you should do:

Focus on a few areas. Donors get most done when they choose just a few areas in which to operate. So it’s great that in Year One, you have a single focus. I suggest never having more than four areas. Understand the problems you’re trying to solve: which you can only do if they are few in number.

In each area, partner with a donor who’s already there – just piggy-back on their infrastructure. It’ll work well for you in Year One, and it’ll work well for you forever. Less work for you faffing about receiving & reading forms from charities; and you’ll create less work for charities in filling in your forms. Far from leaving you then with no role, it frees you up from the business of sourcing & selecting charities – to crack on with raising funds, and actually helping them. Minimise the wastage you create.

Play to your strengths. All donors do best when they use for charity the skills and resources which are unique to them. For the Prince of Wales, that’s his convening power. For Goldman Sachs, it’s their financial wizardry which they used to create a bond, thought to have saved half a billion lives. For Dragon James Caan, it’s his public reputation for being good at picking winners, which he used to raise loads of money from the public for Pakistan after the earthquake. For you, my dear, it’s your amazing media pull. That gives you two opportunities. First, a great ability to raise funds. People will trust you to put on a good party which they’ll pay to come to, or to endorse a good beauty product, which they’ll pay for. So your auction of your clothes on is a great move. And second, ability to highlight issues in the press. You went with Comic Relief up Kilimanjaro: great coverage for Comic Relief. You got malaria: suddenly everybody knows about malaria. If you decide that you’re interested in female genital mutilation, or low-pay in jobs dominated by women working part-time, the public will hear a lot about that.

Don’t restrict yourself to charities. Charities are one (very good) way of creating change, but they’re only one tool in the box. If you’re serious about creating economic opportunities, you may do well to look at social enterprises, and/or funds which invest in social enterprises. Discriminate between organisations solely on their ability to create change, not on what their tax-code happens to be.

Cheryl: 3 words. Whatever it takes.

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6 Responses to Cheryl Cole Foundation: The most important 3 words

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