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The HIF Diffusion grant brought me to Translators without Borders (TWB). I was asked to bring my “go to market” industry skills to work closely with the Deputy Director. Our goal was to develop a product suite, create a partnership pipeline, and launch the new “Words of Relief” service packages using a transformed business model. TWB “got it.”

Their leadership demonstrated courage and risk-taking in recruiting a business leader from outside the NGO world to execute on a next level vision of outreach. And, as reported in the first blog, we got right “down to business.”
Is the emphasis on “business” or “down?” That phrase may have positive connotations of business efficiency or negative ones of departure from lofty ideals. Professors from Wharton, Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota and Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, published research titled “Non-Profits are Seen as Warm and For Profits as Competent: Firm Stereotypes Matter.”*

The premise of their research is that consumers use warmth and competence as the two fundamental dimensions to form perceptions of organizations. Furthermore, people possess stereotypes based only on if an organization is classified as a non-profit. Non-profits are perceived as warm, but less competent. Unfortunately, these stereotypes predict critical marketplace behaviors including the likelihood of visiting a website, donating, and investing resources. But the stereotypes can be dispelled by specific marketing actions. Ironically, one of those is attaching value to services and a willingness to discuss money. Research finds that when high levels of warmth and competence coexist, the results is a desire to buy. In our world at TWB that is a desire to partner by major NGOs, a desire to fund by donors.

We started talking about money. Translators without Borders was founded to match the demands of NGOs for language services with the supply a generous community of translators worldwide. As is typical of maturing organizations growth and success created new challenges. NGOs now turn to us for a range of services that extend well beyond our historical translation of documents. NGOs receive our counsel and language thought leadership as we partner to help them build an information access culture. We help our partner NGOs provide information that is truly and dependably accessible to their affected populations of different ethnicities, backgrounds, and literacy levels.

To do this our organizational structure has become more layered, and program overhead has increased. We now offer service packages and talk to current and prospective partners about recommended levels of investment in languages services to optimize support for their missions. Our Words of Relief packages are readily deployable in times of crisis.

For our partners, we conduct impact studies and provide measurements of program success. We measure their return on investment. ROI is measured in lives changed and lives saved. That’s our business.


* Jennifer Aaker is the General Atlantic Professor at Stanford University, Graduate School of Business

Kathleen D. Vohs is the University of Minnesota McKnight Land-Grant Professor, McKnight Presidential Fellow, and Associate Professor of Marketing, Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota

Cassie Mogilner is an Assistant Professor of Marketing at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania,

Correspondence: Jennifer Aaker. This research was partially supported by McKnight foundation funds awarded to Kathleen D.Vohs. Many thanks to Bo Ah Kwon for research support. All three authors contributed equally; order was determined by two coin tosses over cocktails.

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