Saturday, 25th March 2017
SUNIL SHAH TALKS ABOUT HIS INNOVATIVE WORK FOR THE CHARITY
Sunil Shah (Third from Left) celebrating their successful Everest Trek
A deaf-blind person communicating through touch language
Celebrating a successful trek to Everest Base Camp in the Himalayas, 2008
Sunil Shah is a highly successful businessman and entrepreneur. Educated at the London School of Economics, he is a qualified Chartered Accountant and has been involved in many multi-million pound software companies and start-ups, from Wilco, to Coexis and is presently specialising in Management Buy-Ins.
1. You are a highly accomplished business executive, having led several global software companies. Why do you spend so much time on charity work, and how on earth can you afford it?
It started off with my passion for trekking and climbing. I started doing this for charity, and discovered that throughout my training and the actual treks, I was able to make a large number of new friends, and get to know them intimately. Also the trips were a good way to relax and get some real strategic clarity about business, without any direct pressure. I find that purpose elevates life to a totally new level, and for me, working for Sense International has been pure joy. Sense International works to help children who are both deaf and blind, and unable to communicate at all. We have trekked to places as far as the Himalayas – Mt. Everest Base Camp, Mt Kilimanjaro and the Alps. Many of the participants have come for the very first time, and this experience has transformed their life, health and well being and most importantly allowed them to believe in their own abilities to sometimes do the impossible.
2. You are a fund-raising advisor to Sense International, and have raised £300,000 for them - an awesome amount of money. How did you achieve this?
In my business, I learnt the art of networking, targeting and relationship building. I applied this here, and set targets for each trek. I also trained the group about how to approach others, and what works. Many of them have now become very passionate about Sense International and become loyal regular supporters. I show them how to do 'pyramid' recruiting and relationship fund-raising. By building a track record and through the strong social and business relationships, I believe that it is sometimes possible to overcome charity fatigue especially if you can get your donors to empathise with the cause - our supporters come back to us to ask for more ways of giving and supporting because they trust us and respect what we do.
3. How has Sense International inspired you in your business?
In business, I learnt how to build and sustain customers, and not to lose them. For me, business is a partnership between the supplier and the customer and I have developed a strong friendship with many of my customers over the years. I have been able to leverage these relationships across the globe in the work I do for Sense International and the fund-raising. I also try, like in business, never to lose a charity contact or supporter, by keeping in touch and regularly informing them. Now I am an ambassador for Sense International and I believe that my support for Sense International helps motivate and encourage the staff who I believe are doing an outstanding job in a very difficult and testing economic environment.
4. There is a feeling that professional charities have large administration costs and overheads, and people are reluctant to support them. How do you overcome this barrier?
Sense International has a cost to income ratio of 20%. Dealing with deaf-blind children requires professional expertise; otherwise, it just does not get done. Large Charities can have cost to income ratios of 50%, and ours is certainly much lower. The UK catalyses overseas operations and outreach work. We work with people on the ground in each country, and that is very effective. Occasionally I do come across people who operate on the mentality that rather than donating to a charity, because half the money is spent on administration, they would rather deliver a donation directly to the needy. This is a good approach if you are really able to devote your free time and energy, especially when the intended audience who you are tring to help is close by; it does not work where the help is being delivered internationally in remote areas. Just like someone will buy professional help to address their day to day needs which they are not capable of doing themselves, people need to accept sometimes this is a “cost of doing good” – it allows them to employ someone to deliver their good intentions.
5. Do you have a message for readers of www.diverseethics.com?
Think about living in a world where you cannot see or hear. It is like a prison. How would life be for you as a parent if your child was deafblind? Think about how challenging it would be communicating with your child? And the situation gets worse as the child becomes an adult. Sense International provides help to such families to overcome their disadvantage, and in many cases we begin to open new lives and dreams for them.
Article added on 16th July 2010 at 2:12pm
Article added on 16th July 2010 at 2:12pm
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