Five minutes with Mandy Johnson
Spotlight

Five minutes with Mandy Johnson

Mandy Johnson wants to bridge the all too frequent gap that exists between charities and business.

As Director of Partnerships at Change.org, she helps organisations fulfil their charitable goals and at the same time gets to work with some of the best charities in the UK, helping them to connect with Change.org’s 11 million UK users.

“I wanted to devote my time to something more socially rewarding”

My husband moved in to the charity sector first and then challenged the morality of me not being there. He was considerably less well paid yet far more satisfied with the work that he was doing. A career path towards becoming a millionaire wasn’t as satisfying as a career path that could change the world.

“Everything we do on a daily basis revolves around how we can help people to create change”

Our mission statement is printed on our wall and is part of almost every conversation we have as a company. Wherever possible, we will bring in the people who use our website as they are part of our conversation. This ensures that we are listening to the people who we want to empower. We want to do things the right way, in the way that actually works for them, rather than the way in which we think things work for them.

“Taking advantage of technology means changing your mind-set to it”

Digital transformation is a buzzword but we’re not seeing the transformation actually happening as fast as we’d like to. In the charity sector that means we need to see a change in the type of people who are traditionally sitting on charity boards. With new mind-sets, charities will be able to take advantage of things that could make innovation happen faster or find efficiencies that wouldn’t be possible without technology.

“A vibrant economy means living in a global community”

We live in a global community and a vibrant economy for me is one where, ideally, poverty doesn’t exist because businesses are operating in a sustainable, ethical and moral way. It is one where businesses are looking to create profit in a way that is beneficial, rather than harmful, to the communities they are operating in.

“Companies can’t just have a CSR department as a bolt-on anymore”

We can get towards a point where we have moral businesses and businesses making decisions on a moral basis by treating the corporate social responsibility (CSR) department as integral to business. We need to make sure that the CSR department isn’t there because businesses feel that it’s merely something they have to have but rather because it’s something that is a better way to build their business for the future.

“Companies and charities need to integrate more as organisations”

In some ways, we’re getting towards a vibrant economy but with the recent stories about BHS and Sports Direct, we’re far away from what we could be and what I would aspire for us to be like in the next decade or two. One way of developing a vibrant economy is to ensure that more long-term strategic collaboration takes place between companies and charities. The opportunity of thinking about how a partnership between charity and business can drive organisation and strategy at the same time is often missed, and companies need to stop asking charities to pitch to them. They need to see charities as equal partners that can add as much value as other profit-making organisations. In turn, charities need to stop seeing businesses as a cash cow and need to start thinking about how companies can help them realise their social mission.

“Businesses need to get better at listening to their customers”

When someone starts a petition on Change.org, we give the decision maker the right to reply to the petitioner. It always surprises me how few organisations take that opportunity up. For me, the forward-thinking organisations are the ones that recognise that if your customers are getting angry at you about something then they actually care about your business. If you ignore them and don’t reply then you are missing a huge chance to form a deeper relationship with those customers.

“Organisations need to stop striving for short-term profits”

If I could change one thing about the UK economy, it would be to remove the short-term mind-set. I want organisations to start striving for long-term sustainability, which, for me, also encompasses financial sustainability.

“Systemic change is created by lots of smaller changes”

If people respond to short-term changes over a long period of time then over a long period of time we will see systemic change. People still need to be aware of the long-term change they want to see but baby steps and short-term changes are the means of getting there. For example, Caroline Criado-Perez’s petition against the Bank of England scrapping the final bank note with a woman on it was an example of how sexism still exists in society but also a reminder that we’re not going to solve the problem overnight.

“Being a B Corp has allowed us to take more risks”

Being a B Corp is incredibly important to us as, if we were simply a charity, we wouldn’t have had as many opportunities to create change. By being a B Corp, we are able to justify profit-poor decisions to our investors where they are mission rich. That means our mission statement is at the heart of everything we do.