Sat, May 07 2011

Got Donors?  No?  Then make modules of your mission.

Katya Andresen's avatar

Author, Robin Hood Marketing

Filed under:   Marketing essentials •

After a recent speech, a man in the audience came up to chat.  He was looking for advice on positioning his after school programs for disadvantaged children.  He works in a wealthy Connecticut town with a neighborhood of great need, and he was struggling to tell his story and win support from donors.

The program, he explained, had so many dimensions: soccer, dance, arts.  It was hard to make it simple.

My advice was to think of his program in modules.  There are wealthy people in his town with a passion for arts.  Get them to put their name on the dance program.  Find people whose lives were changed by soccer to underwrite that part of his program.  Go modular and tangible, I urged, so you can speak to the particular passions of each major donor.

I often encounter nonprofits that do many things, and they feel they have to relate every single aspect of their work when they market themselves.  I say: don’t.  You don’t see P&G running around telling you about every brand they own all at once, after all.  There’s a reason for that.  We should think about the benefits of packaging different parts of our work independently.

Now I have some intellectual heavyweights backing me up on this.  Joseph Pine II just wrote in the Harvard Business Review that smart companies modularize their capabilities.

In the article, called “Beyond Mass Customization,” he says:

Take your offering — whether a physical good, intangible service, or memorable experience — and break it apart into modular elements like LEGO building bricks. Think about it: What can you build with LEGO bricks? Anything you want, thanks to the large number of modules (with different sizes, different shapes, different colors) and the simple and elegant linkage system for snapping them together.  Then you must work with each individual customer, creating a design experience through some sort of design tool that helps customers figure out what they want. For customers don’t always know what they want, and even if they do, they can’t always articulate it. Recognize also that the most frequent mistake mass customizers make is overwhelming their customers with too much choice. Fundamentally customers don’t want choice; they just want exactly what they want.

This advice absolutely applies to nonprofits.  Don’t forget your donors’ preferences. Then connect to them, LEGO brick by brick, program by program, and story by story.

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