Building a More Sustainable Philanthropist: One T-shirt at a Time

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Uth Oye! (www.uth-oye.com) is a social enterprise that designs premium quality t-shirts with socially relevant messages. 50 percent of our profits support organizations that are actively involved in the education, human rights, renewable energy and developmental sectors of Pakistan.

The non-profit and philanthropy sector has always relied on the presence and goodwill of the individual philanthropist. We view their existence as a given. Our notion of humanity being inherently good, compels us to keep believing that no matter how dystopic a society becomes, there will always be a subset of individuals dedicated to the betterment and benefit of others.

However, the framework within which we in Pakistan exist is drastically different from the developed world. Given the amount of corruption, and the exponentially rapid rate of decay we see in Pakistan, philanthropic endeavors around us are increasingly becoming more “We know this is a small band aid on a festering wound that keeps growing larger everyday” than the conventional “I am going to attend a few luncheons, donate a bunch of money and bi-annually purify my soul in the process” mindset prevalent in societies where poverty isn’t as overt.

Start ‘em Younger: Financial Maturity

We just cannot wait for philanthropists the way we used to: We need to produce them. Quicker, faster – and much younger.

Consider this – 63 percent of our population is comprised of people that are 25 or younger. This generation is currently growing up in a culture where corruption is a way of life, where terms like humanity, honesty and transparency are just remnants from the ancient rĂ©gime.

Also factor in that we live in a largely communal system, and you get an overwhelmingly large youth demographic that is financially immature. This is an interesting phenomenon it makes for a very large chunk of people who actively spend money on consumer items; but, are complete afterthoughts when it comes to us viewing them as a viable revenue stream for charity by virtue of them being financially dependent on their families. We perhaps don’t treat them like grown-ups and subconsciously expect them to behave accordingly.

Uth Oye!’s Spiritual Bottom Line

Addressing this cultural dilemma was an area of absolute necessity for us – our “spiritual” bottom lines lay in the act of turning tomorrow’s leaders into today’s philanthropists by habitually conditioning them.

Ours is a model that is fairly straightforward: We design t-shirts, you buy our t-shirts and 50 percent of our profits from each line benefit one small charity that is actively involved in the non-profit sector. We pick out a charity that is innovative and can benefit from the marketing push and added revenue stream. We then partner with them in the hopes of raising top of the mind awareness for them.

Principles of Purchasing

To get our message home we have to mask it in a layer of irreverence and mirth. Anything that appears preachy would inevitably end up being mentally classified as “just another of those charity gimmicks” and get lost in the media clutter. Consequently, our communication strategy involved youth relevant celebrities, popular culture/humor, and a strong focus on the product quality and finish.

Several beneficial principles come into play the moment anyone makes a purchase decision. For us, they involve:

1.Operant conditioning:
Buying and repetitive buying of a product with the know-ledge that it is benefitting charity helps cultivate a mindset that is receptive to charitable endeavours in the future. The consumer feels positively reinforced when they get a well designed niche product in addition to helping fight “the good fight”.

2. Glamorizing Philanthropy:
It’s the cool factor: By getting popular youth celebrities and trend setters behind us, we add a layer of “coolness” to an act that was formerly associated with images of diseased children and disempowered women. The trickledown effect in trend replication and the fact that we’ve designed our t-shirts such that they would sell regardless of their charitable undertones makes for a potent incentive.

3.Aggregation of a Volunteer Base:
One of our main aims in establishing Uth Oye! was the aggregation of a socially conscious youth fan base who we could nudge into volunteering. Since our launch, we’ve helped several organizations previously hard pressed to find young volunteers to help with their charitable endea-vors.

4.Raising Levels of Social Awareness
We view our t-shirts as posters that people wear around on their chests. At the very least, they function as units that supplement other social awareness efforts and at best, they promote dialogue and debate amongst the youth.

Much of the charity we see around is reactive it addresses the “illness” as opposed to the circumstances that created it. Our intent was the creation of a proactive system that addresses the circumstances by implanting the seed of societal betterment into the mind’s of tomorrow’s leaders today. “Get ‘Em Young” has been a long-standing mantra for Big Tobacco and other corporate pirates. There is simply no reason why the same principles cannot be replicated for more constructive undertakings.

In the grand scheme of things, what we are doing now might seem to be the equivalent of little Lilliputian arrows on the giant Gulliverian “system”.

But We Disagree

If the whole is a sum of its parts, then it is not entirely unimaginable for us to envision a future in which the idea of reform has achieved critical mass; to where whispers of change aggregate into shouts that echo throughout the country.

    Author Information

    Founder of Uth Oye!, Babar Khan sold his first product at the age of 14 - a customized chat applet script for the widely popular MiRC. After studying Advertising and Mass Communication in the US, he started a strategic branding and design firm, Green Thumb Creative, working with clients such as Habitat for Humanity and Good Sip Coffee Co. In 2005, Babar was awarded 7 Addy Awards, among the most prestigious awards in the advertising industry. Babar Khan now lives in Pakistan and is a senior member of the core management team for a TV channel.

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