Sat, November 01 2008

My bright green pants and other embarassments

Katya Andresen's avatar

Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Marketing essentials •

Recently, with some trepidation, I told a silly story during a speech.  It was about how at age 12 I wore a new pair of electric green pants to school. No one in my class ever let me forget it for the next three years I was at that school.  I was small for my age, and between my size and the pants, I got a nickname that stuck: Little Green Pea.

I told this story to a room of 700 people (which felt like therapy in front of a crowd) to make a point: standing out can feel really scary.  It can transport us back to that scared 12-year-old conformist in all of us.  It’s safer in the herd, doing the same thing as everyone else.

Interestingly enough, this story was the one part of speech everyone cites and remembers when they mention my talk.

That’s because standing out and expressing our personality in a memorable way is what gets people’s attention, captures their interest, and makes them empathetic.

With the economy tanking and fundraising season looking tough, it’s tempting to fear risk, eschew difference and curl up in that 12-year-old ball and do the same things that we’ve always done.  It feels easier to stick to the usual scripts.

That would be a mistake.

Now is the time to be unique and deeply personal in all our marketing.  It is the best time to stand out and say what’s special about ourselves, because there are fewer resources to go around.  We have to be the Green Pea right now, not the face in the crowd.

Gold Toe socks does it - they stand out by making their uniqueness (the tough toes) gold.  Bald Girls Do Lunch does it - they stand out by just like a Gold Toe or a Green Pea.  You can do it too.

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Fri, October 31 2008

Five-year-old Fundraising

Katya Andresen's avatar

Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Fundraising essentials •

Some time ago, I posted on five-year-old vs. nine-year-old marketing.

Today, I have a related post: five-year-old fundraising.

Here, my five-year-old showed her marketing chops.  Consider her promoted to maven.

“To raise money for my school, I’d write a note and put in in a folder at school to send to the grown-ups.  In the note, I’d say we need money to make the school be nicer.  The hallways have lots of drips, and we need to repaint them and we need some more books for the children.  I’m thinking about the children and how the children need to have a nice school.  They can’t work in a bathroom.  A bathroom would not be a nice school.”

And here you find three great elements of a fundraising campaign:

1. The right messenger, with an authentic voice (you can’t make up that wacky bathroom comment)
2. The right audience and channel to that audience (grown-ups with money, receiving the message from the kids in a take-home folder)
3. Tangibility: Paint and books, not just money for education. Specificity sells.

Kate, well done. 



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Wed, October 29 2008

The 3 things that drive me insane

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Marketing essentials •

And they drive your audience insane, too.

These three things are subsets of the absolute WORST thing you can do - waste someone else’s precious moments on this earth.  Life is too short to do such a terrible thing.

The following marketing/fundraising/writing behavior is crazy-making:

1. Not getting my attention or getting to the point within a few seconds.  I will give up on your message after that amount of time.

2. Making things more complicated than they need to be.  Don’t make me work to understand what you’re saying.

3. Missing the point.  Don’t bury the lead.  Go right into the juicy, emotional stuff: the good stories, the human face on the issue, the surprising outcome.

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Thu, October 23 2008

Cringe-worthy annual campaign cliches

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Fundraising essentials •

A few folks recently forwarded me a story about a pretty weird fundraising campaign: 

Framingham State College recently sent out a letter to alumni seeking donations. The missive contained lots of literal “blahs.” A sample of text: “With the recent economic downturn and loan crisis, it has become even more important for Framingham State College to receive your support. Blah, blah, blah, blah…”

The letter was clearly a joke and an attempt to appeal to 20-something hipsters, but many grads didn’t see the humor.

Apparently, they got a few new donations, complaints and an embarassing story in the news.

Blah, blah, blah.  How original?  Not really, in my book.

Which brings me to my October Fundraising Success Column:

Ah, autumn. The crunch of falling leaves under your feet. The crisp, cool air. Football. And the start of — you guessed it — fundraising season.

This year, like every other, I fully expect my mailbox and inbox to be chockablock with the kind of clichés I used to start this column. You can call it moldering messaging. Yuck.

Let’s make this year different. It’s time to turn over a new leaf.

Cliché No. 1

I have a good place to begin. The No. 1 cliché we need to banish this fall is the “it’s fundraising season” or “it’s that time again” appeal. I’m amazed by how many of these I get. My alma mater likes to inform me that it’s “annual gift time.” My public radio station reminds me every five minutes that it’s time for the “fall fundraising campaign.”

The problem with this framing is that the time of year is not a reason to give, unless it’s the last week of December, in which case there is a tax-year deadline relevant to donors. (This is a notable exception — at Network for Good, Dec. 30 and 31 are the biggest days of the year.) We might live by the campaign calendar, but our audiences do not. They don’t care if it’s time for our annual appeal. That’s why they don’t work in our development department or put our campaign dates in their BlackBerrys and iPhones. They have other lives.

Fortunately, it’s easy enough to fix this problem. The remedy, of course, is to stop waving the fundraising calendar and start looking into donors’ hearts and minds. We need to explain why giving now makes sense for them. Tell them what urgent, compelling, fascinating things they can achieve with their gifts. Express how their money will go further right this instant. Spin them a story that engages them on their terms.

This approach creates a sense of urgency far more burning than our budget cycle. And a sense of urgency is essential to get people to give.

But to be clear, I’m not dismissing campaigns. Campaigns are great. There is plenty of research that shows setting a goal and a deadline — and measuring progress toward it — is motivating to donors. But you need to show how they are part of that goal and deadline. It’s about their participation more than our own need.

For example, a good campaign might be called “Send X Kids to School” rather than the “annual fundraising appeal.” It might tell the story of a child that can be helped, followed by a statement such as: We’d like to raise $16,000 to send X kids like this young girl to school. If X people give X amount, we’ll fill a whole classroom together. Then show progress as soon as you have it, so people know they have helped push you over the finish line with their participation. Or if they haven’t helped yet, they’ll know that by acting now, they can make a real difference.

This is a much better approach than “it’s that time again” to support something like “education programs.”

Cliché No. 2

Which brings me to another cliché we need to strike from our campaigns: the focus on our organization at the expense of our donors. When we start talking to donors about their goals for giving — instead of our own fundraising plans — we get far better results. Make them part of the stories we tell and the heroes in our efforts to make a difference.

It’s fall. So by all means, get those campaigns under way. But make them about more than just the seasonal campaign. Make them about what truly matters to your organization and, most important, to your donors. Great campaigns are not a date range on a calendar — they are about an amazing destination that you and your supporters want to reach together.


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Wed, October 22 2008

Twitter 101: A free, easy guide for nonprofits

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Social Media •

So should you deal with Twitter or not?  This came up while I spoke last week at the NC nonprofit conference alongside smart people like Kivi Leroux Miller and John Kenyon.  I was going to post some bullets on this but then along came fellow blogger and prolific commenter John Haydon with a guide that does ALL THE WORK FOR ME AND YOU.  It’s easy, short and to the point.  If you think bird not technology when you hear the word Tweet, have no fear, this Twitter 101 guide will bring you up to speed.

Here’s a summary John prepared for me to post here:

For many non-profits, Twitter is a new and uncharted social media that is understood and underutilized. For almost six months, John researched hundreds of blogs and social media experts before writing the guide. “I wanted to provide something to help non-profits better use Twitter to increase their fanbase and fundraising.” Additionally, John conducted an on-line survey of over 200 non-profits currently using Twitter (results are included in the guide).

The Twitter Jump Start Guide, which is a living document (those who download the guide will automatically receive updated, more advanced versions every couple of months), includes the following:

• How to create a Twitter Profile that will make folks want to learn more about your non-profit
• How to find Twitter users that already support your cause
• How to find new donors who are already sold on your non-profit
• How to turn those supporters into raving fans
• How to automatically post any news regarding your non-profit
• How to make sure that folks visit your website and stay interested
• 10 Twitter tips that will increase your online donations

The guide can be downloaded for free here!  Thanks John - what a great service to the sector.

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