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.

  • Comment: (7)   


The program will make sense in the field of non-profits as well as profit organizations.

Posted by Elown Denzel  on  05/07  at  06:42 PM

thank you Katya, this is what I have been saying for years, ever since Kiva’s record amount of donations in 2007. When I saw how they were putting the stories of each person they helped on their website, I knew that the multi-social service nonprofit I worked for should also make “modules” of each program. Due to a number of issues, that never happened on the website, but every time I looked at it, I thought, “How much money are we leaving on the table because people get overwhelmed by everything that we do?”

I wish we all could be like Kiva and make our programs rotate on our front pages with 1 click donation.



Posted by Mazarine Treyz, Author of The Wild Woman's Guide t  on  05/09  at  07:02 AM

Love this blog! Thank you for sharing.
I work at social school and it is difficult to us to find sponsors. Your idea of modular work very interesting.

Posted by Ann  on  05/12  at  09:18 AM

I love the idea of modules, and this blog also made me think of micro-campaigns. Both get to the heart of the matter and synchronize specific needs to a donor’s passionate interest. Your targeted proposals empower donors and inspire contributions. Nova Southeastern University has hundreds of programs and fund raising efforts, but it was a micro-campaign that made unexpected national news and attracted more attention to the programs that our Mailman Segal Center is doing to research and assist with the needs of individuals with autism. The development officer was having a hard time coming up with a name of some one who would fund a program which would teach children with autism to communicate using an iPad and special software. However, when she decided to do an 18 iPads in 18 days campaign which allowed donors to make a set amount contribution of about $750 which would put one iPad with the software in use for a child in the program, donors responded and the goal was met in less than 18 hours. Modules and micro campaigns show donors that their contribution is having a real world outcome.

Posted by Diane Joy Obregon  on  05/13  at  04:51 PM

We have donation “levels” right now with different perks at each level. People are just giving unrestricted donations for our whole organization. I feel if we try things the way you describe it would be hard to keep the levels pitch going too. Or can they/ should they coexist? We also have a small staff so it seems like a lot of work to keep one consistent campaign going, let alone all these different facets. I like the idea, just trying to figure out how to make it work for me.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/02  at  07:29 PM

I always love your blog. Anyway, he got to bring himself closer to those people who had the passion on the said fields. It will be more easy for him to win. Tell them everything about the town and how needful the place is. Sell his purpose in a very proper way.

Posted by Harrold Baker  on  08/12  at  05:51 PM

Nice post. Such a big help to other organizations who are in need of sponsor. Profit and non-profit organizations. smile

Posted by MSC  on  09/25  at  01:56 PM

Leave a Comment





Preview Comment:

Remember my personal information

Notify me of follow-up comments?

Submit the word you see below:

<< Back to main