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Current nonprofit sector research and recommendations for effective day-to-day practice from ASU faculty, staff, students, and the nonprofit and philanthropic community.
As a keen volunteer at our local charity, AlphaTutorials, I was tasked with helping them try to attract more students, as they were in decline every year. The charity seeks to improve the education of those in need for free, while also providing tuition for students. This is done with the help of local teachers who volunteer their time. The centre had helped me a couple of years prior, by allowing me to earn my A level Psychology, which was something I decided to do to improve my own education. It felt right that I do something to help them back.
One thing was apparent when I sat down and tried to figure out how I would help AlphaTutorials as a volunteer. I knew that the main resource we had available at our disposal was knowledge. We had qualified teachers in all the main subjects taught across the UK, from Mathematics to the sciences, and therefore it made sense to try to utilise this to our advantage somehow.
Only a few weeks prior, I had stumbled on the story of Pat Flynn, who wrote about how he had sold educational resources which proved popular when he started his website SmartPassiveIncome.
I saw no reason why we couldn’t do the same, with our goal being to funnel students to the centre, but also diversify into resources. We sat trying to understand our market and we found websites focusing on Sociology revision resources doing quite well when giving them away for free. We obviously couldn’t compete with a free product, so we decided the best subject for us would be psychology,as that was one of the most popular but underserved subjects in terms of online resources. We set up a partner website, Loopa Psychology and spent the last 12 months focusing our efforts on trying to make it more visible within the searches. Our main method of doing this was utilising our network of teachers to have schools refer students to the site or have us added among their list of recommended reading websites.
In the end, I had to write the content, as our volunteer teachers just didn’t have the time. I probably knew more than them anyway, having sat the current syllabus only a year or two prior. As Loopa became popular, we began funneling students who were self-learning towards Alpha’s centre because they would then need somewhere to sit the exams, and the centre was a registered examination centre for all the major exam boards.
Although we weren’t marketing Alpha directly, we were able to use Loopa’s success to draw students there, and this is where diversification really helped Alpha thrive. Sometimes you need to look at what strengths you have, and find more efficient ways of attracting business. Alpha had been dependent on word of mouth and locals too long. However, Loopa had helped it become known as a key educational charity within the surrounding region, attracting more students who wished to self-teach and then find a centre to sit the exams. If they had already bought materials we had created, then they were also inclined to sit the exams with us too.
The bottom line, then, becomes quite clear: sometimes you need to try a different approach and diversify your strengths. Alpha’s was knowledge, and it was all about finding creative ways to deliver it.
Saj Devshi works as a probation worker but also volunteers at Alphatutorials.org, an education based charity in Leicester, England. He also helps run their partner website, Loopa Psychology, which offers free and paid educational resources.