Fri, August 15 2014
Are your social networks full of friends being doused in icy water? You’ve witnessed the #IceBucketChallenge.
The “Ice Bucket Challenge” has taken the world by storm, prompting people across the nation to take note of, promote, and donate in support of research and assistance for those diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease). Challengers throw down the gauntlet to their peers: dump a bucket of ice water on your head or donate to support the ALS Association. It’s an unusual request that has a lot of people taking notice. Ethel Kennedy even challenged President Obama to join in, and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has dared Bill Gates to do the same.
How has any of this helped the charity? The ALS Association shares how this viral hit has helped to grow their audience—and their donation totals (over $4M so far). This represents a 1,000% spike in donations compared to the same time period last year.
So, why do campaigns like this take off? How do they tap into the part of us that shares, supports, and acts? Here are seven basic reasons why the Ice Bucket Challenge is so successful. (Note: These factors can also help make your next campaign more effective.)
It’s social. We’re social creatures, and we tend to do what other people are doing, whether we want to admit it or not. It’s who we are. We look to social norms to guide us. It’s peer pressure…for good.
It’s personal. There’s just something about hearing and seeing your family, friends, colleagues, and public figures speak and take action. This powerful personal trigger combines with social norms to inspire action. It wouldn’t have the same effect if a complete stranger (or an organization) asked you to take the challenge.
It’s simple. The ask is pretty clear: dump a bucket of water on your head or give. That’s the choice. There’s not too much to think about there, which is the hallmark of an effective marketing message. Some may argue that an even simpler choice would limit the option to only one: give. In this case, the ask is important, for sure, but the reason this has spread so quickly (and, in turn, raised so much money for ALS) is due to the stunt. Your ask may be easy, important, and necessary, but remember that it still needs a vehicle to reach your audience.
It’s slightly irrational. Sometimes we are more likely to give when a stunt is more unusual, painful, or downright weird. Want proof? Look to Christopher Olivola’s experiments from The Science of Giving.
It’s direct. Instead of issuing a blanket plea, the challenge is built around publicly calling people out. By name. When you want people to pay attention and take action, it makes a difference when you identify an individual vs. asking “everyone” to help.
It’s consistent. Instead of deviating from the script, each participant in the Ice Bucket Challenge focuses on the same challenge and specifically supports the ALS Association. This provides a common experience and goal, which helps build momentum and community. The same wouldn’t be true if the actions or causes were randomly selected.
It’s different. Let’s face it. It’s hard to stand out on social media, but we know that photos and videos of our friends make us linger for more than a few seconds. And people doing silly things like dumping freezing water on themselves? America’s Funniest Home Videos can’t even compare!
With all of these things going for it, the challenge does have some critics who say the stunt is merely slacktivism and doesn’t represent a real avenue for fundraising. I’m glad to see some good conversations around this, as I think it’s important for fundraisers and marketers to understand the opportunities—and the limits—of these types of campaigns. That said, as Justin Ware (The Social Side of Giving) points out, if an effort leads to 7-figure fundraising results, it’s difficult to dismiss this example of “slacktivism” as a dead-end street. Justin also smartly clues in on the real opportunity: being able to further engage and retain these new supporters. In his recent Selfish Giving newsletter, Joe Waters underscores the importance of leading with engagement before making the ask. This is where these types of social campaigns really shine.
What do you think of the Ice Bucket Challenge? Love it, hate it, or getting your bucket ready while you’re reading this? Chime in below and share your thoughts!
Fri, August 08 2014
When I asked nonprofit experts in a range of fields, from fundraising to programs, to share their summer reading lists, I had no idea what to expect.
I was thrilled to hear so many passionate stories about books that have made (or are likely to make) a huge difference in these folks’ lives. I’m sure that you’re reading all the time—blogs, Facebook, e-newsletters—but my colleagues told me that, for them, reading a book is something different. The process of immersing oneself in a work that is longer, richer, and typically experienced in a distinct format, be that hard copy or on an e-reader, is a unique experience. This immersion outside the day-to-day is highly engaging, energizing, and refreshing on the creative and intellectual fronts.
With that potential in mind, consider these top picks for your end-of-summer reading list. One of them could change your life:
Auto Biography: A Classic Car, an Outlaw Motorhead, and 57 Years of the American Dream, Earl Swift
Sally Kirby Hartman, vice president of communications at the Hampton Roads Community Foundation, adored this pleasure read about a ’57 Chevy and its various owners. Sally’s a superstar communicator and extracted a valuable marketing insight: “Auto Biography is a great reminder that a good observer can bring any topic to life by writing about real people,” she said.
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, Malcolm Gladwell
If you know the work of fundraising scribe Tom Ahern, you won’t be surprised by the passion he brings to this recommendation. When Tom likes something, he really likes it. So when he told me that Blink was “blowing his mind,” I had to know why.
“Try this one,” said Tom. “A psychologist administers a test to college students. There are 10 questions. Scattered through the questions are words such as ‘worried,’ ‘Florida,’ ‘old,’ ‘lonely,’ ‘gray,’ ‘bingo,’ and ‘wrinkle.’ When the students arrive to take the test, they act their age. When they leave after taking the test, they act old, walking slowly. What you read when taking the test affected the way you behaved.
“OMG, Nancy,” exclaimed Tom. “The great unknown for copywriters (me) is the human mind and how it actually works, not how we guess it works. That’s why Blink is blowing my mind: it’s all about recent psychological research, as told by a fabulous journalist.”
Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, Nir Eyal
Nonprofit Web mastermind Seth Giammanco, of ModLab, is digging into Nir Eyal’s model that can be used to help products stand out in a world of constant competition for attention. He outlines that model here. It’s useful guidance and great inspiration for shaping your programs and services and positioning your organization’s fundraising and marketing campaigns for the strongest results.
Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World, Gary Vaynerchuk
Kevin Martone, technology program manager at the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, is just digging into this one now. It’s the latest (maybe greatest?) from social media guru Gary Vaynerchuk, who shares secrets on connecting strongly with customers—donors and other supporters to us. Sounds worth a read!
To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, Dan Pink
In his breakthrough book, A Whole New Mind, Dan Pink broke through traditional perceptions on success drivers, suggesting that right-brain skills are a huge success factor. Celeste Wroblewski, vice president of public relations at Chicago Symphony Orchestra, is eager to read his latest. Celeste, I’ve read To Sell Is Human, and you’re in for a treat.
Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder, Arianna Huffington
What’s heading your end-of-summer reading list, or what book tops the list of those you’ve already finished? Share your picks in the comments below!
Tue, July 29 2014
Filed under: Fun stuff •
We love taking a little time to celebrate the amazing things our nonprofit partners are accomplishing in their communities. Our Nonprofit of the Week series lets us spread the word far and wide about the great things the organizations we’re working with are doing to improve their corner of the world. In July we celebrated a New York charter school that boasts a dedicated alumni network, a community center that provides unified support for the people of the San Gabriel Valley, and Georgia’s oldest nonprofit childcare center.
Take a look at the great things these organizations are doing and join us in celebrating their work!
Bronx Science Endowment Fund brings together a network of extremely dedicated alumni to support their alma mater’s commitment to the highest quality education, facilities and extracurricular activities. Since its founding in 1938, Bronx Science has produced an impressive list of notable alumni, boasted high graduation rates and a reputation for strong academics and performing arts. Their network for fundraising alumni is a vibrant part of continuing the school’s legacy.
Foothill Unity Center is the primary provider of food, case management, crisis help and health care resources for neighbors in need in the San Gabriel Valley. Through collaborative efforts with social workers, educational institutions and healthcare providers, Foothill Unity Center aims to provide vital support services that ensure dignity and respect for their community members.
The Sheltering Arms early education and family center in Atlanta was founded in 1888 by a group of women determined to provide care for children in need. Since then they’ve expanded their services to include early childhood education, family services and child care for all of Atlanta’s families regardless of income.
Fri, July 18 2014
Filed under: Fun stuff •
Our daughter Charlotte’s world right now is probably familiar to many of you.
She’s in the middle of a blissful summer at a few different day and overnight camps. At the end of every day, her mind and creativity are stimulated, she’s made new friends, and she sleeps soundly with a smile on her face. Charlotte finishes the summer inspired, energized, and smarter than ever.
As a longtime overnight camper myself, I greatly envy her. Finally, this summer I decided to follow her summer camp strategy lead and am doing something completely different from the everyday. I’m taking a two-month sabbatical to refresh and restore—my first-ever break beyond a brief vacation since I rushed out of college to work.
For many, however, a sabbatical isn’t possible, so I wanted to outline effective approaches used by fellow nonprofit staffers and consultants. I became a reboot detective, determined to find what’s working since rebooting is so valuable and so productive in teeing you up for a great fall and beyond.
I did what I typically do when I’m looking for answers—ask my friends and colleagues. Here are some of the fantastic approaches I heard from our peers in the field:
Seek a different point of view. Gillian Ream Gainsley, who works in communications and development at the Ypsilanti District Library in Michigan, does something very surprising.
“My summer camp plan is to go to overnight camp. Literally. I’m on the board of a summer camp and spend a week volunteering there every year. It’s the most rejuvenating part of my year,” Gillian says.
“Mostly, it’s a fantastic break. But I do communications for a youth organization, so it’s a great way to take a deep dive into how kids talk and think and feel. You have a much better sense of what their (and their parents’) needs are after a week of 24-hour interaction at camp.”
Get together and get outside. Caroline Avakian, founder of Source Rise, which connects journalists with experts in international development, spends more time outdoors and with her family. “Not only is it necessary, but I find that it fuels my work and creativity, making me much more productive during my work time,” she says.
Make a commitment to doing summer differently. Unless you’re lucky enough to actually go to summer camp, as Gillian does, it can be super hard to pry yourself away from the day-to-day routine, no matter how much you want to. That’s where I often fall.
You’re much more likely to succeed in getting to your own version of summer camp if you formalize your commitment. I did so by telling a few close friends and colleagues about my plan and asking them to keep me honest. My husband is good at policing as well!
I’m not alone here. “I have to consciously cut down on work hours to do that,” admits Caroline. “But it’s worth it since my productivity shoots up when I do get down to business. I tend to goal-set instead of clocking in my hours, so as long as I feel I’ve met my goals, I’m happy. That said, my ‘summer camp’ goals tend to be more focused on strategic priorities and organization. That focus gears me up and preps me for the busy fall season.”
Take a new approach to the same old. Danielle Brigida, senior manager of social strategy and integration for the National Wildlife Federation, is one of the most creative people I know. She brings that creativity to the way she tackles her work, including her own version of summer camp.
Like most of us, a lot of Danielle’s day is spent tackling ongoing challenges. Although the challenges themselves don’t vary wildly, she spices up the way she approaches them: “I break out the sidewalk chalk and the Idea Frisbee in the summer. I grab whomever I’m working with, and I just toss the Frisbee around when we need to think up clever names or ideas around campaigns. We find that moving while we brainstorm really helps.”
Work your body, nourish your soul. Many of the folks I spoke with increase their physical activity when summer comes around or add seasonal treats like biking and waterskiing.
Danielle, for example, goes way beyond the Idea Frisbee. “I went out on a limb and signed up for a marathon in Iceland in late August,” she says. “So I’m mostly training for that and spending as much time outside as I can. I also try to balance the running with yoga.”
Connect with peers in the field to build satisfaction and smarts. Graphic designer Julia Reich uses summer’s slight dip in her firm’s client work to build relationships with other nonprofit marketers and, she hopes, find some strong strategic alliances.
How will you get a little summer camp this summer? Please chime in with your comments to share how you recharge and look at things differently.
With refreshing practicality, Nancy Schwartz rolls up her sleeves to help nonprofits develop and implement strategies to build the strong relationships that inspire key supporters to action. She shares her deep nonprofit marketing insights—and passion—through consulting, speaking, and her popular blog and e-news at GettingAttention.org.
Mon, June 30 2014
Filed under: Fun stuff •
Across the country and around the globe our nonprofit partners are changing the world every day. Our Nonprofit of the Week series helps us spotlight the great things these organizations are doing to serve their mission. Take a look at how this month’s featured organizations are improving their communities:
Maryland Zoo in Baltimore isn’t just a place to come and visit lion cubs Zuri, Leia, and Luke, and a growing community of African penguins—it’s an organization working hard on behalf of wildlife and wild places worldwide. By focusing on participating in global wildlife conservation efforts and creating dynamic educational opportunities in Baltimore, the Maryland Zoo is working hard on behalf of wildlife and wild places worldwide.
Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Ohio Valley provides a home away from home for the families of children receiving critical medical treatment at local hospitals. By creating a place of community and respite the RMHC of the Ohio Valley truly cares for families in times of crisis.
Families First of the Greater Seacoast is a community health center offering high-quality care for all members of New Hampshire’s Seacoast, regardless of their ability to pay. For the past 30 years Families First has been expanding their mission and services to create a healthier and happier community.
Join us in celebrating and thanking these amazing causes!