Real business #16 - Compaid

  • Compaid minivanReal Business is a series of posts that analyses the marketing opportunities and challenges of real businesses in the South East. The interviews are undertaken by Keith Lewis of The Courier.

    COMPAID is a charity which enhances the lives of disabled people through harnessing the power of personal computers.  Thanks to COMPAID's pioneering efforts in designing adaptive aids and developing special software, numerous people with physical or learning disabilities have been able to acquire new skills, access knowledge, release their creativity and, at the same time, improve their social lives.

    The charity's second main activity revolves around providing transport for disabled people.  Nowadays, it runs a fleet of 11 vehicles that have been fitted with special ramps to accommodate wheelchairs.  COMPAID currently has three Kent County Council contracts which involve providing a door-to-door shopping service for disabled or elderly people. Many other charities use COMPAID's facilities to satisfy their own transport requirements.  

    The charity has recently moved into new premises in Paddock Wood and undergone a re-structure to organise itself on a more professional basis - it now has a chief executive, Stephen Elsden, and a Trustee Board made up of seasoned professionals.

    COMPAID requires funding of around £600,000 per annum. Most of its revenue comes from income received from the adult social services it provides and from selling its transport services to external clients. The remainder (roughly 20 per cent of the total) comes through grants and voluntary contributions.

    As with all charities, the principal challenge is to maintain the level of contributions.

    The Marketing Eye says:

    With so much competition in the marketplace, charities have had to become more business-like in their approach.

    COMPAID needs to keep raising its profile so that people understand the important service it provides. This could be achieved through the effective use of PR and establishing solid links with the local press. There are news stories on the website, but it is important to make sure that these are distributed as widely as possible, including through social media.

    As part of the PR strategy, Stephen should consider making himself available to appear on local radio.  The stations are often looking for comments from local charities about current issues.

    COMPAID has a good website and is also active on Twitter.  Now it should look into building a Facebook presence as well. Facebook is free and to launch a community page is simple.  Followers can be attracted through the website, email campaigns and Twitter. COMPAID might also consider launching a Facebook group for local people with disabilities or those running networking groups.

    Stephen Elsden is active on LinkedIn. He could now develop a LinkedIn profile for COMPAID and also a discussion group to establish links with volunteers, clients and local organisations that offer complementary services.

    Once all of the social media is established, COMPAID should put links on its website.  These will link all of the media together.

    Finally, COMPAID might want to think about starting an email newsletter to keep potential partners up-to-date with the work it is doing.

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