We can do the most good when we do what we’re good at

We often think that ‘doing good’ is something we do on the side – with our spare time, and spare money. But what if you could make a difference while making a living? 

12-minute read

For more than 10 years, I had been working in branding and communications in London. The work was fun, challenging, and it paid for my lifestyle.

I thought I had it made.

The only niggling frustration I had was reading world news, and looking around me at other people in my community.

Sure, my life was okay… but I was one of the lucky few. What had I done to deserve an easier life than anyone else?


It frustrated me that I wasn’t really helping anyone else, when as a child that was a central part of my identity.

So I spent a year getting all gung-ho about contributing to charity. I started diverting a portion of every one of my paychecks to causes I believed in and I started donating my time to charity.

And at the end of 2015, I decided to try and do something big…

I strapped my running shoes and ran for six days straight from my home in London, to my friends home in Holland.

It was the biggest challenge I had ever undertaken, and I thought I could use it to raise awareness and funds for the UN Refugee Agency.

For six days I battled mud up to my knees, and waxed lyrical on social media about how hard it must be to leave your home – carrying your children and belongings on your back – and make your way on foot to another country in hope of a better life.

It made a bit of noise. People said they were inspired. I felt good about the difference I was making.

But then when it all wrapped up, I realised I had raised less money than I’d spent on preparing for and undertaking the challenge. Let me just say that again:

I had raised less money than I’d spent undertaking the challenge.

That realisation took the wind out of my sails big time.

I could have just donated the money in the first place and saved myself the effort.

Why did I put so much effort in to achieve such a small result?


I returned to work after my little adventure feeling deflated. And as I looked at the next project on my list – the one whose deposit had paid for my little adventure – my stomach knotted.

What I had thought would be a nice, simple project actually had much more sinister motives: the client I was meant to be working with was trying to change legislation that was protecting buyers and eating into their bottom line. It always amazes me the lengths some businesses will go to in order to increase their profits.

For a year I had spent my spare time and spare money trying to make some small positive difference. And yet, here I was in my full time job actively contributing to make the world a worse place.


Right then and there I made the decision that making a positive difference couldn’t just be a sideline gig. I needed to actively start looking for ways to use my skills in a way that would make a positive difference.

I decided that it was time to put purpose over profit. To live a life that I was proud of and do work that was meaningful.

For a few months, that was enough for me. I started working 1-1 with individuals who were already making an impact in the world – but whose impact could be so much greater, with the right messaging and marketing.


But pretty quickly, I hit the next hurdle.

I started stretching myself too thin… trying to support these amazing clients with things that were outside my zone of genius.

Yes, I can tinker with code, or apply myself to the finer details of designing or writing content for a website. I can even sit down and craft a pretty damn awesome marketing campaign.

The more things I applied my energies too, the less effective I became. 

It became clear pretty quickly, that if I wanted to truly make the big impact I dreamed of, then I was going to stick within my own swim-lane.

And so The Good Alliance was born.

An alliance of designers, copywriters, developers, photographers and other professionals, contributing what they do best, to projects and causes that make a serious impact in the world.

It’s not without it’s challenges, but we are proving that it really is possible to make a difference while making a living. And it’s become my mission to make that a reality for as many people as possible.


So what could you do?

Does any of my story resonate with you? Why not leave a comment below to let us know what your sweet spot is, and how you could use that to make a difference in your world.

The Good Alliance, Cat Townsend

Cat Townsend

After more than a decade spent helping big brands sell more stuff, to people that didn’t need it; Cat set a simple intention: To do more work that made a positive difference in the world. And so The Good Alliance was born…


  1. Christina Robb

    Hey Cat,
    enjoyed your blog immensely. Made great sense. Congratulations on running from London to Holland, I can’t imagine what that was like and then to come back and find you didn’t reach the monetary goal you were hoping for must have been gut wrenching.
    I know it was a few years ago but never underestimate the power you have to change people’s lives, thoughts and perceptions without ever being aware of it. And these people will have spoken to their friends and families and so, like the ripples in a pond your message is still travelling on.
    At the moment I’m making a difference with my coaching, one person or sometimes 5 people at a time, helping them to see that they can change their minds and change their lives. only 6 months in, running at a loss, but know that will change. I’m partly running at a loss because two of my clients pay nothing and one only pays half but that’s my way of giving back. I love reading your blogs and thank you so much for the freebies you give us too.

    • CatTownsend

      Hey Christina!

      Thanks so much for your comment. It means a lot to know that our work is helping you make your own ripples.

      Hang in there with the coaching business AND don’t forget… that charging for your work not only ensure that you can continue to help more people, but often times, it’s the investment that people have to make in coaching, that can provide the extra motivation they need to ‘do the work’.

      Big love to you and your mission!

      x Cat

  2. Georgie

    Hi Cat, Just to echo what Christina said, yeah you may have made less money than you put in (I have the same pattern)…but as someone pointed out to me and I say it now to you ‘you are the butterfly, you can change the world…you just may not realise you’ve done it’. Brave to embody your spiritual beliefs – and you may have just helped me stumble upon a research topic for counselling. Let me think on it some more, and perhaps I could contact you for a bit of an interview? Right now, I am a counsellor in primary care supporting people with various common life and mental issues. I run a monthly group for the community to join us regarding mental and emotional well-being, as I am seeing the benefit to group work (which seems to be re-creating the stronger community bonds we used to have before becoming isolated individuals). I am about to set up a positive living group, to expand on this sweet spot further and see if we can pull in people in the community who do a variety of therapies and live authentically to inspire others to get doing the same. The key to making the change out there, is making the change in there.

    • CatTownsend

      Hey Georgie!

      I’m so inspired by what you are doing. Definitely hit me up if I can help with your research.


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