Mon, December 10 2007

Open up or else

Katya Andresen's avatar

Author, Robin Hood Marketing

Filed under:   Marketing essentials •

Three important things happened recently.  Take note.

1. Sally Beatty of the Wall Street Journal says charities need to be more open and transparent. She says it feels good to give to charity, but “the warm feeling fades when we try to find out about charities’ successes and failures.”  She says it’s very hard to know who is doing effective work. The article makes three recommendations to improve the situation.  Here’s what she tells charities to do: 1) Provide more information online; 2) Adopt high standards of measuring efficiency; and 3) Adhere to those voluntary standards. 

2. The Chronicle of Philanthropy did a story chronicling the work of GiveWell’s Clear Fund project - which aims to rate charities on their effectiveness.  Founder Holden Karnofsky found that to be very hard work, for the reasons Sally Beatty cites.  GiveWell has a new report on charities saving lives in Africa - useful for figuring out who to support this holiday.  Holden and his colleagues went through all the major causes of death and extreme debilitation that affect Africans more than they affect us and recommended the best.  They estimate that their top-ranked charity saves lives for something around $1000 each - 3-4x as cost-effective as their second highest rated.  Find out what charity is so great here.  (Hint: It’s one of my favorites and the one that opens my book!)

3. The Great Nonprofits site is getting nice traction in Pennsyvlania - enabling ratings of local charities.  Yes, welcome to the world of customer reviews of charity - pretty fascinating stuff.  Founder Perla Ni, who is an impressive innovator in our sector, likens it to Zagat’s for charities.

If you read this blog regularly, you know I’m constantly harping on two things: first, connect with your audiences and what they care about.  Answer the question, “why me?” for them.  Second, for those audiences, answer the question, “what for?”  What will the audience get for their donation? What will change?  What will happen?  (The other questions to always answer, by the way, are why now? and who says?)

I think “what for?” has never been more important.  You must answer this question before, during and after people give.

Skepticism about marketing is at an all-time high.  You can’t just demonstrate need, you have to show results.  If you don’t do it yourself, then GiveWell or Great Nonprofits or Charity Navigator will be doing it anyway.  So you have no choice but to share honest information on where the money goes.  People give money out of emotion, but that doesn’t mean they don’t care where their dollars go after they give.  The number one reason people quit supporting a nonprofit is how they were treated by that nonprofit - as in too many appeals, not enough thanks, and insufficient information on impact of their efforts.  People give because it feels good but if nothing seems to happen, it starts feeling bad.  This is a problem.

Open up or else.  Open up about the difference you make and how you make it.  Or else people may start closing their wallets.



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