- Fri, March 14 2008
- Filed under: Fundraising essentials
This is my latest column for Fundraising Success. I print it here to share it with you, but also in response to this week’s Nonprofit Consultants’ Carnival, which is hosted by Sam Davidson and focuses on “green” in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. I think this message is especially important for the environmental movement.
A few months ago, I saw a full-spread, anti-slave labor ad that featured shackled hands, one on each side of the two pages. Attaching them was a strip of paper that formed a chain holding the pages together. It was an arresting image that seized my attention.
Then it got even better. It got interactive. When you laid the pages flat, the chain broke.
But then it got worse. Underneath the broken chain was a message: “Ending slave labor is not this easy.” There was a tiny “ILO” logo in the upper right asking you to visit the International Labour Organization’s Web site to find out “how to help.”
I loved the handcuffs. I hated the message so much I blogged my disappointment. (Hat tip to osocio.org blog, formerly Houtlust Blog, for running the ad — that’s where I first saw it.)
Here’s why I hated it: I felt powerless to help because even the ILO admitted it was not easy to do anything about slave labor. How can I have faith that it will possibly overcome the problem? What in this ad makes me believe I could possibly make a difference? Nothing. I just felt weak and world-weary.
What if instead the message said, “You just took the first step to ending slave labor. Now take another one. Visit http://www.ilo.org – .” I would have felt inspired, not tired. I might have donated money or time.
If you haven’t guessed by now, I am not a fan of fear-based, gloom-and-doom messaging. I think it’s a downer; a downer as in diminished donations, dispirited advocates and doubting audiences. Feeling depressed yet? Me too.
That’s my point. In this edition of my forgotten fundamentals column, I want to focus on hope. And not just because my state is flooded with Obama ads — which I happen to think are very good, regardless of your political stripe. I want to focus on hope, inspiration and aspiration because they are the basis of a long-term relationship.
Here’s the problem with fear. It sometimes works — if we get scared into doing something quickly. But over time, our fear is going to erode, so we might not act again. (Think “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.”) Or, the fearful, gloom-and-doom approach can backfire. It can make us feel powerless. It can make us feel helpless. It can make us feel a problem is insurmountable, intractable and just plain permanent. It can make us want to run away.
The more drama you give your problem, the more risk you take. If the apocalypse is coming, why bother trying to make change? If you scare with scale, you’ll lose. If you empower with feasible steps to set things right, you’ll motivate — and affect social change.
Environmental campaigns often focus on negative consequences. That’s not all bad — but you need feasible, corrective steps paired with the negative consequences. If you’re going to try to fundraise with melting polar ice caps, you’re going to need to convince people their donations can stop us all from drowning. You need them to believe their actions can change things. You want them to feel hopeful — and good.
This logic doesn’t only apply to a good cause; it also holds true for lingerie. A Journal of Consumer Research study from February covered in The Washington Post found that when people buy gifts at the last minute, they are motivated by fear — specifically, fear of being in the doghouse. The whole experience of going to Victoria’s Secret the night before Valentine’s Day in a desperate shopping spree for your honey is negative, and the doghouse-dodging shoppers in the store don’t tend to get warm, fuzzy feelings about giving or about the brand. By contrast, non-procrastinators aren’t motivated by fear, and they tend to feel happy and loving about their gift experiences — and the brand.
In other words, The Washington Post noted, fear rarely wins people’s hearts.
We should keep this in mind. Scaring people into giving is about as effective as a holdup: Someone will hand over his wallet, but he’s not going to feel good about it or you.
Here’s a good rule of thumb: Threaten dire consequences only when there is an immediate, specific and feasible recommendation for remedying them. Show need alongside positive results. Give people a way to channel the emotions you evoke into real change.
That’s what we all want. We want to be able to change what’s wrong. We want to set things right. We want hope that things can be better. We want to aspire to be something more.
The last thing we want to feel is helpless. Remember that, and tap into those human needs as much as you can. Sell, don’t scold. Pair negative consequences of inaction with the uplifting image of action. Show the solution. Convince people that, together, we can handle the challenge, not just hand-wring our way into despair. In other words, break those chains of negativity. We want out of them.
- Thu, March 13 2008
- Filed under: Fundraising essentials
I scooped the New York Times. Not really - but I did post on why people give a few days before the Times published a fascinating article on that topic. And fortunately I was on the same philosophical page as the Great Gray Lady, who I think it’s fair to say has a bit more prestige than yours truly.
If you didn’t read the article, I recommend it. (Registration may be required to read it.) The article looks at rare research into giving through the lens of social psychology and the world of behavioral economics, and it’s fascinating.
Here are the key points:
-People aren’t very rational or clear-headed in how or why they give - it’s an emotional act.
-Because this “warm glow” theory holds, giving is not a zero-sum game. In fact, if a Warren Buffet gives $31 billion to the Gates Foundation, people don’t stop giving because they think there is not need - they are inspired to give because of the warm feeling the gift made. People want to do what other, good people are doing.
-In line with the above idea, people are likely to give toward a campaign goal if you have seed money or a start toward a goal that makes it seem attainable.
-Matching gifts elevate response, but the amount of the match makes no difference. So even though you’d think a 3-1 match would be more motivating than a 1-1 match, it is not. It’s the presence of a match that matters.
-Seed money may be more important than matching gifts in fundraising, because it outperformed matching gifts.
-People give more money if they think other people are giving more money—unless the amount other people are giving is so huge they it feels irrelevant. In other words, there is a donation sweet spot. If people think others are giving $300 on average, they may give more; if they think others are giving $1,000 on average, it will not have the same inspirational effect.
-People gave more when they were told their donation made them eligible for a prize.
- Thu, March 13 2008
- Filed under:
Many people think marketing is a battle of products. In the long run, they figure, the best product will win. Marketing people are preoccupied with doing research and “getting the facts.” They analyze the situation to make sure that truth is on their side. Then they sail confidently into the marketing arena, secure in the knowledge that they have the best product and that ultimately the best product will win.
It’s an illusion. There is no objective reality. There are no facts. There are no best products. All that exists in the world of marketing are perceptions in the minds of the customer or prospect. The perception is the reality. Everything else is an illusion.
These are the words of Trout & Ries in their must-own, classic book, The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing. And it’s a law that certainly applies to us more than ever.
I quote them today because there are constant reminders of this law around us. As well as cautionary tales about what happens when you do things to shake people’s perceptions in the wrong way.
Does Starbucks taste better that Pete’s or Caribou? Or is it the perception of its taste - fueled by the ambiance of their stores and their first mover claim to that perception - that explains why there are more Starbucks outlets around? Is growth slowing for Starbucks because the coffee tastes that much worse than before - or because it isn’t the perceptive experience that it used to be?
The great brands of our sector seek to own certain perceptions. Kiva.org is about directly helping another person with an hand-up. American Red Cross was about coming to our rescue - until that perception was shaken. They are still recovering.
The perception of former NY Governor Spitzer was that he was squeaky clean and ruthless in holding others to lawful and moral standards. When people learned something that flew in the face of this perception, he was finished - as a brand and certainly as a politician. The product - his work as governor - is secondary in most people’s minds to the more primary (and primal) issue of whether he lived up to what he projected and what we perceived.
So what do you do about it? You focus on your audience as much as your programs. You show why you matter to them rather than trying to convince them to listen to what you do. You seek to own a unique perception in the minds of your audience rather than trying to dislodge their perception of your competition. You can fine-tune your programs or re-brand all day long, but until you connect to what is in someone’s heart or mind and create a perception, your “product” doesn’t exist for them. If you do have a place in people’s hearts and minds, honor that perception with your actions. People don’t like to have their perceptions proved wrong. In fact, they hate it because they don’t like to be proven wrong.
- Mon, March 10 2008
- Filed under:
I’m at the Social Enterprise Alliance Summit here in Boston, where I’m presenting this tomorrow. My favorite session today was by Jerr Boschee, who spoke about what makes a successful social enterprise. (For the jargon-averse, a social enterprise is an organization with a double bottom line - it yields both social and financial returns.)
He spoke about the importance of focusing on the one thing you do well - and getting rid of the rest. I’m a huge advocate of this approach. (My version of this advice is here.) Jerr says focus yields a lot of good for everyone:
1. Have a sharp focus: Be great at one thing. Contraction is good. Kill programs that aren’t core to what you do best. He calls this “organized abandonment.”
2. What happens when you focus? Expanded impact. You get more profound penetration into your area of focus - and greater social impact.
3. You also get a revitalized culture. Clear focus yields happy, productive and united staff.
4. Influence is also an important outcome. The more power you have, the more freedom you get to speak the truth and do what you need to do.
I like his list.
It is scary to focus. But like all things that require courage, it is powerful. Fuzziness and fear don’t make great organizations or significant social change.
It’s not always about what you should do. It’s also about what you should not do.
- Fri, March 07 2008
- Filed under: Fundraising essentials
My daughters’ favorite book is a guide to being a princess - it covers dress, etiquette, conduct, etc. The funny thing is, a lot of it is good advice. It covers topics like “how to disguise you’re bored around others” and other tips that all of us could use in our work lives, particularly during long meetings.
So much of the advice on this blog is about good manners. And superlative marketing is often based in princess-level manners.
1. Be polite. Don’t interrupt or lecture imperiously at your audience. Seek permission to hold forth with your audience. In other words, don’t buy email lists and spam people. Contact them when you have permission, and make it a conversation, not a lecture.
2. Be gracious and generous. Thank those that help you, often and well. Don’t be stingy about sharing information or resources with others.
3. Be loyal. Keep up your relationships with others. Even if they haven’t given you money lately, you can still show people you care by reaching out with a kind update.
Be sure to curtsy next time you see me.
- Fri, March 07 2008
- Filed under: Marketing essentials
A lot of people think old is good.
“We should do this because we’ve done it every year.”
This is how you end up with an Oldsmobile-style marketing strategy.
A lot of people think new is good.
“We should do this because it’s new and different.”
This is how you end up with a “this is not your father’s Oldsmobile” marketing strategy.
Old and new are not ideas. They are substitutes for thinking. Don’t make decisions based on what you’ve done in the past or what looks good in the future. Make them based on what’s relevant to your audience now.
- Wed, March 05 2008
- Filed under: Fundraising essentials
Below are the most typical reasons, I think. It’s an A-O of giving - feel free to chime in with the P-Z.
The common denominator? These are deeply emotional, personal reasons. “Because I loved the organization’s brochure” is not on there.
So what do we do? Make people feel this way. When they feel moved to give, you need to assure them something good will happen as a result. Talk tangible impact. Once they give, thank them over and over. Remind them of why they were moved to give and what terrific things resulted.
a. Someone I know asked me to give
b. I felt emotionally moved by someone’s story
c. I want to feel I’m not powerless in the face of need and can help (this is especially true during disasters)
d. I want to feel I’m changing someone’s life
e. I feel a sense of closeness to a community or group
f. I need a tax deduction
g. I want to memorialize someone (who is struggling or died of a disease, for example)
h. I was raised to give to charity – it’s tradition in my family
i. I want to be “hip” and supporting this charity (ie, wearing a yellow wrist band) is in style
j. It makes me feel connected to other people and builds my social network
k. I want to have a good image for myself/my company
l. I want to leave a legacy that perpetuates me, my ideals or my cause
m. I feel fortunate (or guilty) and want to give something back to others
n. I give for religious reasons – God wants me to share my affluence
o. I want to be seen as a leader/role model
- Sat, March 01 2008
- Filed under: Marketing essentials
The article starts with the example of razors with disposable blades - they were first successfully marketed by being given away. That created demand for blades. The model is alive and well today - you get a free cell phone but pay for the monthly plan. The printer is cheap but the ink or toner is expensive.
This model is also becoming increasingly dramatic, posits Anderson. He says:
It’s now clear that practically everything Web technology touches starts down the path to gratis, at least as far as we consumers are concerned. Storage now joins bandwidth (YouTube: free) and processing power (Google: free) in the race to the bottom. Basic economics tells us that in a competitive market, price falls to the marginal cost. There’s never been a more competitive market than the Internet, and every day the marginal cost of digital information comes closer to nothing. One of the old jokes from the late-‘90s bubble was that there are only two numbers on the Internet: infinity and zero. The first, at least as it applied to stock market valuations, proved false. But the second is alive and well. The Web has become the land of the free.
Accomplished blogger and great friend Jocelyn alerted me to this part of his thesis when she emailed me yesterday about the article:
There is, presumably, a limited supply of reputation and attention in the world at any point in time. These are the new scarcities — and the world of free exists mostly to acquire these valuable assets for the sake of a business model to be identified later. Free shifts the economy from a focus on only that which can be quantified in dollars and cents to a more realistic accounting of all the things we truly value today.
I experience this dynamic every day at my nonprofit, Network for Good. We give away every bit of expertise and information we can - we have free training calls, we have free fundraising tips sent via email, we have a completely free online Learning Center. We find people are more likely to choose us for their paid fundraising services as a result. It’s like the “gift economy” that Anderson describes.
I think all nonprofits can make this model work. Are you the American Diabetes Association? Send out lots of free information on managing your diabetes. Are you a conservation group? Provide free tools for making your home or business more green. You’ll end up with more (financial) supporters because more people will know your value.
How else do you think the free economy affects our sector?
You can watch Chris talk about the concept on YouTube, but I could not embed his video here because his magazine Wired disabled the “free” embed feature. He’s brilliant but that’s ironic!
- Wed, February 27 2008
- Filed under: Marketing essentials
I am an enormous fan of the wonderful book, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. I even did an entire series here on the blog about it. The book is a must-read if you want to communicate - and motivate - better.
And today I have big news - here at Network for Good, we asked author Dan Heath to donate his time to talk about the book and how nonprofits can be stickier. And being the generous person he is, he agreed. Don’t miss the incredible opportunity to hear from one of the greatest marketing minds around - for free!
Make Your Ideas Stick:
Register for our next Nonprofit 911
It’s hard to make an impact with your ideas. It’s hard to get people to pay attention, to listen. And even if they listen, how can you get them to care?
It’s a tough problem, but Dan Heath has some answers. Dan is the co-author of the book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. The book has been on the BusinessWeek bestseller list for 13 months and running, and it was named one of the Best Business Books of the year by both Amazon readers and editors.
Join us on March 11 for a teleseminar that will transform the way you communicate. You’ll learn how to make your messages more memorable, using lessons from psychological research. You’ll learn about the common structure that underlies successful nonprofit campaigns, such as “Don’t Mess With Texas” and The Truth (anti-smoking) campaign.
Dial in at 1 p.m. eastern on March 11. You’ll never communicate the same way again.
- Tue, February 26 2008
- Filed under: How to improve emails and newsletters
Sleeping Cat, on Flickr by Zamario
As I write, here at Network for Good, I’m listening to a great Nonprofit 911 call. No worries if you aren’t listening too - you can view the summary here. And I’m sharing here the summary by our guest speaker Kivi Leroux Miller of NonprofitMarketingGuide.com. I know Kivi personally and think she has terrific advice, which you can check out on her site. I’d also like to unabashedly advertise her work—she does a lot of wonderful webinars and e-trainings which are well worth the modest investment.
Ten tips by Kivi:
1. Know your audience, ask what they want, and deliver it.
Even though your newsletter readers may be incredibly generous individuals, it’s helpful to think of them as very self-centered, selfish people when they are reading your email newsletter. Here’s why: if the content isn’t immediately relevant and valuable to them as individual human beings, they’ll delete it in an instant. We know what’s in it for you, but what’s in it for them?
As you write your newsletter articles, keep asking yourself these questions: How will this article make our readers feel? How will it make their lives easier or better? Does this article show our readers how important they are to us?
2. Send frequently - if you have good content.
How often should you send your email newsletter? In general, I recommend no more than once a week and no less than every six weeks. You want people to remember you and look forward to receiving your newsletter, but you don’t want to drive them crazy either. Your email schedule should be determined by how often you have great content to send.
If you are providing on-target, valuable information each and every time (or darn close), your readers won’t feel bugged by frequent mailings. If you don’t have enough content for a newsletter every two months, you either don’t know your readers or aren’t thinking creatively about ways to talk about your work. See 15 Places to Find Article Ideas for Your Nonprofit Newsletter on my blog.
Here’s a sweeping generalization: most nonprofits send e-newsletters too infrequently. If you aren’t sure whether to step up your publishing schedule or not, I’d say go for it. If your unsubscribe rate goes up, ask why people are leaving your list and if frequency is the problem, back off.
3. Make it personal.
People give to and support nonprofits for highly subjective reasons. Your supporters get something deeply personal out of their affiliation with your organization as a donor, volunteer, or advocate. So why would your response back to these passionate people be institutional, monolithic, and completely objective?
Break out of the “The 501(c)(3) speaks to the masses” mode and make it more personal. I’m not suggesting that you turn your newsletter into a vehicle for personal rambling or try to elevate your executive director to cult status. But you should consider ways to make your newsletter sound as though it is written by one staff person speaking directly to one supporter. Do articles talk about the staff, donors, or volunteers involved in the work? Do the articles have bylines? Are the articles written in a conversational style, even if they aren’t bylined? Have you included some headshots or other people photos? If someone hits “reply” to the newsletter, will a real person see it and respond, or will the reader get an auto-reply about that email address not being checked?
4. Make the next step as easy as possible.
Once your supporters read your newsletter, what’s next? Do you have a call to action? Do you want them donate, volunteer, register, tell a friend, learn more, write a email, make a call or what? Include specific calls to action and links that make following through as simple as possible. Make it, as Katya Andresen says, a “filmable moment.” Could you film your supporters following through on your call to action? If it is clear and simple enough, your supporters should be able to easily visualize themselves and others doing it.
5. Put an unmistakable name in the “From” field.
For most nonprofits, this will be your organization’s name or a well-known campaign or initiative. Don’t use a staff person’s name unless at least 80% of the people on your mailing list will recognize it. If you decide to use a person’s name (it is more personal after all - see #3 above), I recommend including your acronym or other identifier after the name. This should not change from issue to issue; you want to build up reader recognition.
6. Use a specific, benefit-laden “Subject” line.
The busier your supporters are, the more likely they are to look at your email subject line and nothing else before deciding whether to read it or delete it. Pack your subject lines with details about what’s inside, emphasizing the benefits to the reader of taking a few extra seconds to see what’s in the body of the message. That’s a tall order for 50-60 characters, which is the rule of thumb for subject line length. Do your best and track which newsletters have the best open rates to see which subject lines seem to appeal most to your readers.
Your subject line should change with every edition. Don’t waste space with dates, edition numbers, sender info, etc. The only exception would be if you have a very short, memorable, and meaningful newsletter title. You can put the title first, often in brackets like this: [E-News Title] Subject Line Specific to This Email’s Content. See Best Practices in Writing Email Subject Lines (MailChimp).
7. Design a simple, clean newsletter that’s mostly text.
People expect to read email, which means they are looking for words. They don’t expect the same visual stimulation that they do when they visit a web page. It’s much more important to say something timely, interesting, or valuable than it is to produce a newsletter that’s visually stunning. At the same time, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use a stylish design and photos. Just make sure that the text gets top billing and wraps cleanly around any graphic elements, especially since those items will appear as big red Xs to a big chunk of your readers. And don’t worry about needing serious design or HTML skills to produce an email newsletter. All of the major email newsletter service providers offer many templates to pick from.
8. Write and design for the preview pane.
Most people don’t actually open each email message. Instead, they use the preview pane to view them. That means you’ve got a fairly small space in which to impress your reader enough to make them either scroll through your email or open it fully.
Images near the top of your newsletter can hog that important space or waste it entirely if images are turned off in the email program. For example, if you want to use an image as your newsletter header, keep it “short” - say under 100 pixels high - so that it doesn’t fill up the whole preview pane. Be sure that you have plenty of compelling text near the top of the newsletter so that even if images are turned off, the reader still sees some interesting text. Also be sure to include ALT tags with all images. See Images in Email and Email Newsletters: Dos and Don’ts and Writing Great ALT Tags for Your E-Newsletters on my blog.
Never send an all-image email newsletter. You’ve seen those emails where the entire preview pane is filled with a big red-X box. They are trying to send you a pretty email by including all the text in a graphic. The problem is that many email programs don’t show images by default. Therefore, you see nothing but the box. I automatically delete emails like this.
9. Appeal to skimmers: Use lots of headlines, subheadings, and short chunks of text.
People scan and skim email before they read it. Short paragraphs and sentences are easier to skim. Descriptive headlines and subheads with active verbs and vivid nouns will grab your supporters’ attention and nudge them into actually reading the text. See Copyblogger’s How to Write Magnetic Headlines series for tons of examples. I also teach a webinar several times a year on online writing dos and don’ts, focusing specifically on how to make your online writing skimmable. Check the webinar schedule.
10. Use an email newsletter service.
If you have more than 20 people on your mailing list and you want that list to grow, you need to use an email newsletter service provider or ESP. Many online client database/fundraising service providers include email marketing in their packages. You can also use companies that specialize in email marketing, like EmailNow. These providers can automate many functions that you shouldn’t be wasting time on, including managing subscribes, unsubscribes, and bounces. They also help you comply with the CAN-SPAM law; strongly encourage you to use best-practice, double opt-in procedures; give you the code for an email newsletter sign-up box for your website; and offer great tracking tools that are nearly impossible for you to implement on your own. The cost of using an email newsletter service is minimal and the benefits are huge.
While these tips are solid advice that will work in most cases, what’s most important is what works for you and your supporters. Test what you do and make adjustments accordingly.
THANKS KIVI for donating your time and expertise!
- Tue, February 26 2008
- Filed under: Marketing essentials
I read an interesting story in the Washington Post today. Apparently marketing staff from Disney are training Walter Reed staff in customer service. The hospital serving wounded soldiers has made headlines for its poor conditions and crippling bureaucracy.
The Mouseketeer Marketers apparently say it’s all about the audience. No magic there - just smart marketing. Customer service makes all the difference - just ask Snow White.
[Kris Lafferty, a trainer for the Disney Institute], who was a Navy lawyer before she started a second career with Disney, led the audience in a discussion of similarities between Disney and the Army hospital. (Both are dedicated to “making people feel better”; both are “subject to media scrutiny”; both are named after famous people named Walter. )
The Walter Reed employees learned the Disney lexicon. Employees are called “cast members.” Customers—or patients—are “guests.”
Then it was on to what Lafferty called the “Disney difference”: “You have to know and understand your guests.”
Much of it involves paying attention to details that matter to patients and visitors, Lafferty noted. “If I go to the doctor’s office and all the plants are dead, I don’t have a good feeling,” she said.
A wheelchair with frayed padding on the arm rests leaves a lasting impression, Donnelly said.
As a contrast to the irate Donald Duck, the trainers showed a slide of a beatific Snow White, holding a broom in a spic-and-span room and surrounded by happy animals. (Lesson: “You can’t sweep it under the rug,” Lafferty said.)
During breaks, some Walter Reed employees expressed surprise at the relevance of the training to their jobs.
“This is good,” said Jan Yatsko, head nurse for vascular surgery at the hospital. “It’s not what we expected.”
I think it’s sound advice - at a price. Apparently the Disney training is around $800,000. So let me save you some money: Listen to Snow White. Your customer service really, really matters. It’s true in the Magic Kingdom, it’s true for the famlies of wounded soldiers, and it’s true for charities.
The main reason donors quit supporting a charity is HOW THEY WERE TREATED BY THAT CHARITY. How people experience you when they give, when they call you and when they benefit from your programs is everything. Give to your own charity and see what happens. If you provide human services, use them as a visitor. This may be depressing. I have yet to work for any organization that is consistently fantastic at customer service - and it’s especially hard for small, underfunded organizations. But we can’t afford not to try better.
- Tue, February 26 2008
- Filed under: Marketing essentials
A couple of months ago, Erick Brownstein of Ideablob.com wrote me with an interesting question: Are the challenges of how to start, run and develop small nonprofits different than those of the small business owner?
He thinks not. Here’s what he said:
Just as the vast majority of small businesses in the US are really ‘micro’ businesses with less than five employees, nearly 80% of the approximately 1.5 million US nonprofits have less than $100k in assets and/or revenues. Oftentimes, it’s one person running the show and these individuals are seeking support for issues ranging from health insurance to marketing to technology. Regarding what’s necessary for success, there are far more similarities than differences between the small nonprofit and the small business.
Advanta Bank recently launched Ideablob.com, an online community where people from diverse industries with different interests can help each other grow and develop their ideas…with a $10,000 monthly prize for the idea that the community votes as the best.
Originally conceived as a place for small business owners and entrepreneurs, the site has been attracting significant participation from small nonprofits. But what’s in it for them? Vying for the monthly prize offers a fun and engaging way to get feedback from supporters as well as other ideablob community members. In addition to the chance to win the money, these finalists (with Advanta’s support) have generated significant publicity for themselves. Several of the finalists have been nonprofits and last month’s second $10k ‘best idea’ winner was Marci Bossow Schankweiler, president and founder of Crossing the Finish Line (CFL), a PA-based small nonprofit that provides excursions for young adult cancer patients and their families.
“If a company can do something that is good for its customers, that in turn is good for the company.” For Advanta, this is an experiment in the new landscape of social media where clearly defined business models aren’t yet established. For those who run small nonprofits and small businesses, Ideablob is an experiment in exploring the value of openly sharing new ideas with a wide range of people and their varied perspectives and an interesting tool for promotion and engagement.
I think this is quite wise marketing on the part of Advanta, and I’m intrigued by what Erick says. When I was writing Robin Hood Marketing, I often turned for inspiration to marketing writers who catered to small businesses. Like Duct Tape Marketing. I think Erick is right that we—small business and nonprofits—have a lot to learn from each other. Here’s some evidence: someone posting an idea and the responses they got.
And apparently nonprofits have some good ideas: 7 of 8 of this month’s finalists are nonprofits. Try it out.
- Mon, February 18 2008
- Filed under: Cause-related marketing
My beloved writer cousin Elisabeth just sent me this email yesterday, which I’m reprinting with her permission:
I just totally thought of you—I had a “marketing moment” looking through this catalog from “Fair Indigo.” Have you ever heard of it? I hadn’t. It’s “fair trade clothes” which sort of look like Ann Taylor Loft with maybe a sprinkle of J. Jill. Lots of t-shirts and stuff, “made fairly in Buji, China,” etc.. But as I was going through, I started dog-earing pages and making these grand plans to overhaul my wardrobe, and I suddenly realized I was going to buy a ton of stuff not because I really like the clothes (they’re ok) but because I want to buy tons of new clothes while congratulating myself on improving the lives of women in Buji, China. Almost every page has a story about how great these factories are, and what a difference they’re making. I was getting so into it when I realized, what a great marketing angle and application of K. Andresen’s marketing principles! Even the cover line is “Fair Trade Fashion helps change the world,” and here I am in the kitchen with Alistair thinking, I’m a world-changer! Let’s get that sweater in latte, too!
I love this story because it shows that good stories - and especially stories about good - sell just about anything.
We buy so many things because of their storyline, and we are especially likely to spend when we aspire to be a character in that story. Imagine helping raise someone out of poverty on the other side of the world just by being fashionable - that’s being a heroine.
Remember this! Your storyline is essential. If you have a corporate partner, your cause-related marketing effort needs a compelling storyline. If you’re about to email an appeal - check if there is a story there. Is the reader going to feel a part of it? No? Then start rewriting now. You need a good protagonist, a high-stakes conflict or challenge, and a resolution with meaning. Even fashion catalogs have them.
You can check out Fair Indigo’s fine website here.
- Fri, February 15 2008
- Filed under: Fun stuff
Since it’s a day when we’re focused on winning hearts, I’m going to take a moment to highlight in red what we all adore: being recognized and loved for who we are and connecting with those we love.
Treat those you want to reach in this world with that kind of affection. Listen to what they say. Acknowledge and appreciate who they are. They will respond in kind. Great marketing is about love.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
- Tue, February 12 2008
- Filed under: Marketing essentials
I just started writing a monthly column for Fundraising Success Magazine. Check out the current issue here - it’s pretty interesting stuff. Be sure to read Jeff Brooks’ column on “protecting victims.”
Imagine you’re waiting at the bus stop on a busy street in your town. It’s a cold day, and you’ve got your hood up and your head down. You’re thinking about a lot of things. That you’re going to be late to work if the bus doesn’t soon appear. That you forgot to pick up your dry cleaning. That all that holiday overconsumption has made your pants too tight. That your spouse doesn’t look at you the same way anymore. That you forgot to feed your daughter’s guinea pig this morning.
Then I walk up and interrupt your thoughts. I’m a complete stranger, and I say: “Greetings. I’m Katya, and I’m a good person. I was born in 1967. My mission in life is to raise my children well, love those around me and leave the world a little better than when I entered it. I need a friend, and you could be my friend. Will you be my friend today?”
I imagine that you would think I was nuts. And quite the narcissist.
Yet we fundraisers launch into this kind of creepy plea all the time. I have a stack of year-end appeals from December on my desk, and too many sound just like my stranger at the bus stop. Here’s the template:
I’m writing from XYZ Nonprofit.
Established in (year), our mission is to (mission statement).
We need money.
Give us money.
Thanks in advance.
PS: Give us money.
I think this is nuts. And narcissistic. And it sounds like the bus-stop broadside. Fundraisers can and should do better. We should beware the bus-stop broadside fundraiser in all of us.
Why? People are busy, and their thoughts are not on us. They’re thinking about their weight, their job, their spouse, their children, the guinea pig, their place in this universe. If we interrupt them and ask for their attention, we had better do it well. We should not start a conversation with a monologue on our merits. We should acknowledge our readers’ presence and speak to their interests. We should not solely focus on what we want from them. We should focus on what we can achieve together.
If this sounds like common sense, well then, you’re on to me. This column, a new one here at FundRaising Success, is going to focus on the common sense we always forget. It’s about forgotten fundamentals — those immutable laws of marketing that are so easy to recognize and so hard to remember to do. And the fundamental we forget most often is this: To succeed in fundraising, we need to focus on our audience and not just ourselves.
I can speak with great authority on this topic because I’m constantly forgetting this fundamental. I forget that not everyone wakes up first thing in the morning thinking about online giving, which is the focus of my work at Network for Good. It slips my mind that my cocktail party companions might not share my zeal for all things marketing. I have a recurring case of mission myopia. The only cure is self-awareness and regular booster shots of an anti-nonprofit-narcissism vaccine.
Last year, Network for Good processed its 100 millionth dollar for nonprofits; a huge milestone for us. I started to draft a press release, but sanity prevailed. “Who would care?” I thought. No one, I realized. So I thought about why people should care. And what I realized was we were sitting on a fascinating set of data about giving. What if we celebrated our $100 million mark by analyzing our $100 million in giving — who gives online, where, what time of day, etc. — and sending our study to media and nonprofits? It would help media covering the charity beat, and it would help nonprofits fundraise more effectively. The result? A lot of attention and coverage of our work that continues to this day.
I was reminded of that study a few weeks ago when I was drafting a year-end e-mail to Network for Good’s friends and funders. The occasion was our sixth birthday, and the purpose of the note was to talk about the great things we’d achieved the past year. Then I realized that our birthday wasn’t really an occasion at all. Who cares, besides the people in my office, that we’re 6? And why should we be beating our chests, taking all the credit for the good we’d done? I was doing the bus-stop broadside.
So I started over. I drafted a heartfelt thank-you to our friends and funders for all they’ve done to make us what we are. The e-mail talked about how much we appreciate their investment of money, time and moral support — and the incredible returns that have resulted. It celebrated the difference the audience had made, and people loved it.
Here’s the bad news. It’s hard to do this. Our tendency as fundraisers who love our cause is to talk about our cause.
Here’s the good news. When we do the work of thinking about how our cause relates to our audience, wonderful things happen. It’s worth the effort. We turn our preachy monologue into a respectful, engaging conversation. People respond because they want to have a relationship with us. We become great fundraisers, and we might even make a new best friend at the bus stop. FS