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September 2006

Signs of suckiness in nonprofit marketing

Most churches don't do direct marketing. But many have signs that broadcast something to their local communities. And many of them -- at least according to the edgy and entertaining Church Marketing Sucks blog -- suck. Check out the post When Church Signs Suck. Here are some of the signs of suck:


  • When a church sign makes its author seem smarter than or superior to the reader, it sucks.
  • When a church sign tells a joke that isn't funny, it sucks.
  • When a church sign tries to sound "deep" but just ends up being confusing, it sucks.
  • Church signs that ask questions without providing answers? They suck.
  • Church signs that use outdated pop-culture references suck.
  • Church signs that use homophones in an attempt to appear clever suck.

Church signs are a lot like other forms of nonprofit marketing. When you fail to reach your audience, your work sucks. Communicating and motivating is never about showing your audience how smart, cool, or funny you are. It's about showing them that you meaningfully align with what they want in life. That's how not to suck.


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Donor power hits the panhandling sector

Cool article in BusinessWeek: Selling Sympathy tells how Matthew Zimmerman, a Business major from Cornell University, provided fundraising consulting services for Amy, a homeless New York panhandler.

On the advice of Zimmerman, Amy changed her cardboard sign from "Help me. I'm homeless" to "If you give once a month, please consider me next time."

It wasn't a controlled direct-response test, but it seems the change improved Amy's fundraising results.

It worked for one good reason: Zimmerman took a donor-power approach. He said, "Part of the process was learning that it's all about the consumers and how they benefit from the transaction. Instead of saying, 'I'm homeless' or 'I need this,' we basically said, 'I know you feel good when you give, so can you give to me next time?'"


If you focus on the donor instead of yourself, you can't go wrong. Even if your fundraising medium is a torn piece of cardboard.


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What are nonprofits like in the new economy?

A few smart companies are making the jump from the old industrial economy to the new knowledge economy. It's a tough jump. The truly successful new economy companies are those founded within it.

Same could be said about nonprofits. Not many are making the change. Take a look at this chart at 1000ventures.com (a business training site): Key Features of the New Economy.

Here's a slimmed-down version, focusing on the issues more important to nonprofits:

Old economy New economy
Scope of Competition Local Global
Competition The big eats the small The fast eats the slow
Marketing Mass marketing Differentiation
Pace Slow Ever faster
Key drivers of growth Capital People, knowledge, capabilities
Decision making Vertical Distributed
Innovation process Periodic, linear Continuous, systemic
Work force characteristics Mainly male, high proportion of semi-skilled or unskilled No gender bias; high proportion of graduates

If you're an old-economy nonprofit (and you probably are if you were founded before 2001), are you able to make these changes?


(Thanks to Bamboo Us for the tip.)


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Another stupid nonprofit ad

1staid
What you see here is what you'd see looking down the stairs at a theater in Toronto. That's not a real person lying down there, but a realistic decal. After you rush down the stairs to her aid and discover you've been had, you'll see a message urging you to get first-aid training from the Canadian Red Cross.

This, it seems, is what passes for effective social marketing. Looks more like a mean-spirited practical joke.

See more at Hotloust.


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Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants

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This week's Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants is open.

What's wrong with nonprofit branding?

The branding discipline has swept through the nonprofit world in the last few years. This should be a good thing -- after all, clear identity and consistent messaging should make communication better.

Sadly, "branding" has largely been a disaster for fundraising, because it is almost always practiced wrong -- usually by self-styled brand shamans.

All too often, the purpose of nonprofit branding is for the organization to express itself -- not to be relevant to donors. The end product is a messaging platform that leaves donors scratching their heads -- and less engaged. And if that weren't bad enough, the branding exercise also frequently creates graphic standards that reduce readability and require a color palette that's a witches' brew of tasteful but sterile, unreadable, and unmotivating shades. I guess that's what you get when you start out with an anti-donor bias.

Donor-Powered branding is based on donor aspirations, not organizational self-expression. Branding in the commercial world usually understands this: The brand is not about us, it's about our customers. The brand image that speaks to donors may not make your heart sing. That doesn't matter -- not to a donor-powered organization.

Think about it this way: If this is a brand, who's the cow? To what is the brand attached?

The "cow" had better be your donors. Your brand exists in their minds and emotions. If it doesn't -- if it's an abstract concept that you created to please yourself, and it exists only in a guidebook and the mind of your "brand manager" -- it's not a brand. And it will damage your fundraising efforts.


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How to treat donors right

A few (disappointingly few) businesses are starting to realize that the path to success is treating their customers right. Even fewer nonprofits are exploring this path.

To peek into the ways businesses are wrestling with putting customers first, read this post at the Fast Company Now Blog: Getting Customers to Love You. Here are the points (and read the post for more about each one):


  1. Eliminate the customer obstacle course.
  2. Stop customer hot potato.
  3. Give customers a choice.
  4. De-silo your website.
  5. Consolidate phone numbers.
  6. FIX (really) the top ten issues bugging customers.
  7. Help the front line to LISTEN.
  8. Deliver what you promise.
  9. When you make a mistake – right the wrong.
  10. Work to believe.


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Do the right thing -- now

If you treat donors well, you'll get better fundraising results. Right? Duh.

Well, it must be a bit tougher to grasp than "duh," because hardly anyone in the nonprofit world is doing it.

Don't miss this great post on the Creating Passionate Users Blog: Why "duh"... isn't. When it comes to doing the right thing, the answer is usually pretty obvious. But not everyone gets around to doing it:


Eating healthy is a "duh." Exercising five times a week is a "duh." Saving money is a "duh." Keeping our kids off TV is a "duh." Flossing is definitely "duh." Managing stress is a "duh." Greeting your significant other and kids with a smile and full attention is a "duh." Empowering our employees is a "duh." Changing the oil is a "duh." Being on time is a "duh." . . . 
There's a big difference between saying, "Eat an apple a day" and actually eating the apple.

It's more than knowing. It's more than going to an inspiring session at a conference and nodding your head. It's more than reading a good blog.

You already have 90% of the information you need to be a truly Donor Powered organization -- and radically improve your fundraising results. So go out there and do it!


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How to make your landing pages work

You've written a spiffy email that has the power to draw people to your website to give. What do they find when they arrive? In a lot of cases, they find confusion -- they end up on a page that doesn't match the clarity and emotional power of the email that sent them.

The landing page matters. Here's an article on the ClickZ Network: Seven Tips for Effective Landing Pages. It's aimed at commercial e-marketing, but the principles hold for fundraising:


  • Don't Just Send Them to Your Home Page
  • Don't Be Redundant
  • Match Your Landing Page to Your Call to Action
  • Use a Look and Feel That's Consistent With the E-Mail
  • Define a Clear Path
  • Minimize Distractions
  • Use Daughter Windows for Ancillary Information

The landing page is just like the reply device in direct mail. It has one job to do, and it must do it well.


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What you really do

You may think your mission is to help the poor, promote the arts, fight disease -- or whatever your programs are designed to do.

That's not the whole picture. You're also in the business of providing something for donors.

The Duct Tape Marketing Blog, talking to businesses on this very topic, has a great post: The Business You Are Really In. In the business world, you have a choice. Compete on price (and lose to Wal-Mart), or offer something more:

. . . stunning businesses understand that no matter what they think they sell, they are really in:

 The information business. The community-building business. The experience business. The transformation business. . . .

People are hungry for businesses that provide them one of the four values above -- Wal-Mart doesn't do that -- Wal-Mart's not your competition. In fact, your biggest competition is probably the way you currently view your business.

If this is true for businesses, it's all the more true for nonprofits. Remember -- all you're selling is receipts, which have some tax advantages to some donors. If you're not also giving donors something far better than a receipt, you're not doing your job.

As a nonprofit, it's clear you don't compete with Wal-Mart. Your "Wal-Mart" (i.e., the Big Monster That Can Wipe You Out) is a business model that doesn't focus on donors.


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Frappuccino vs. Darfur relief

This is pretty funny: a parody Starbucks ad, in which a frappuccino-sipping young woman notes:


"You can feed a kid in a refugee camp in Sudan for a whole week on what we spend on one grande mocha half-caff no-whip frappuccino. . . . Not that anyone's gonna skip their frosty treat to save a kid from starvation. I mean, come on -- they're freakin' delicious."

Questions:

  • Should Starbucks be mad? (The blogosphere says no.)
  • Should relief organizations working in Sudan be mad? What if she'd named one?
  • Who benefits from this highly entertaining, spreading-like-crazy piece?

It's the world we live in. People can create any kind of content they want, and if it's entertaining enough, it will go everywhere. And be part of a huge conversation. Are you ready? Sooner or later it's going to touch your organization in some way.


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The white man's new burden?

There's a movement afoot in the international relief and development sector that's profoundly anti-donor. And it's a disturbing throw-back to the attitudes of 19th century imperialism, wrapped in a cloak of political correctness.

It's the misguided belief that fundraisers have a duty to protect the dignity of poverty- or disaster-stricken people. (This is not unique to international humanitarian organizations -- you can find it across many sectors of the nonprofit world.)

"Dignity" gets an official stamp of approval in a document called the Code of Conduct for The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and NGOs in Disaster Relief. The code has ten points, most of which are praiseworthy, such as, "Aid priorities are calculated on the basis of need alone" (#2), "Relief aid must strive to reduce future vulnerabilities to disaster (#8), and "We hold ourselves accountable to both those we seek to assist and those from whom we accept resources" (#9).

The trouble starts in point #10: "In our information, publicity and advertising activities, we shall recognise disaster victims as dignified humans, not hopeless objects."

That's admirable, as far as it goes. Recognizing disaster victims as dignified humans simply acknowledges the truth that as humans, they have dignity. But there's more to it. This is really about certain kinds of subjectively chosen images and portrayals. The Code of Conduct goes on to say, "We shall portray an objective image of the disaster situation where the capacities and aspirations of disaster victims are highlighted, and not just their vulnerabilities and fears."

In real life, "recognizing dignity" means not using images such as:

  • People waiting for help.
  • People holding out their hands.
  • Emaciated or otherwise endangered people.
  • People in visible grief or pain.

In other words, images that show people actually in need -- people for whom donors might make a positive difference. Such things, the Masters of Dignity would say, strip people of their dignity.

(For spooky, otherworldly opinions from various spokespersons, read "NGOs still fail standards on appeal images" on the Reuters AlertNet site.)

The Masters of Dignity admit it's a subjective question, but they know what they like.

And what they like is almost exactly opposite of what donors need. In order to act, the donor needs to know there is need, and a powerful image can make the point. Deprive donors of that, and you aren't meeting donors where they are. Instead, you are forcing them into your mode of perception, your taste.

Not only will you fail to raise funds, you will fail to serve your donors. Remember, the Donor Powered organization knows that donors like to give -- they do so with open, joyful hearts, not grudgingly with bad attitudes. They are people who know that generosity to those in need helps make us fully human.

Imagine a world without powerful, galvanizing images like this one from Sudan, 1994:

Vulturesudan_1

Or this one from China, 1937:

Shanghai_1

That's where the "dignity" movement would take us. But there's another problem with the dignity movement: It is monstrously arrogant toward those it "protects."

If you've ever met poor and suffering people -- especially in the developing world -- you know they have dignity. In my experience, dignity is often the most outstanding feature you encounter: deep wells of self-sufficient personal dignity that simply overwhelms poverty, loss, or pain.

There's not a thing in the world you or I or any photographer can do to diminish their dignity. It is the height of arrogance to think their fragile dignity needs our protection. It's not meaningfully different from the "White Man's Burden" of the 19th century -- the duty to go out there and save the hapless and benighted "natives" who lacked their own resources.

There are many images we should not use in fundraising -- too graphic, too obscene, too off-point -- but please: our donors and the people we seek to help are not children who need our protection.

Tell the truth. Tell it with drama and precision. Don't hide painful realities. That's your duty to your mission -- and your donors.


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Orchestra says "yes" to audience and survives

Here's the story of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra a nonprofit that came back from the brink by getting Donor Powered. Read about it in this Nonprofit Quarterly article: Phoenix In Calgary: How the Calgary Philharmonic Survived Bankruptcy and Flourished. It's a long article, and there were many actions behind the rebirth of this once-troubled orchestra. But one is especially important. According to the article, "the largest opportunity for the orchestra was to dramatically shift its focus from fundraising to satisfying customer needs."

The way the did that was to shift from treating donors as ATMs they expected to appreciate (and fund) whatever the orchestra wanted to do -- to actually doing what more people wanted them to do. Meaning they got more ticket sales and more donors:


Over the years, the CPO had become solely focused on only 2% of the available market in Calgary: the "classical music lover." To achieve sustainability, the organization recognized the need to broaden its market to reach an additional 13% of the population that also enjoyed classical music, but in nontraditional ways. Marketing focus was redefined and implemented through re-branding, using a different approach to packaging and selling tickets and targeting new audiences and communities.

Personally, it pains me to pass this information along. As a member of the tiny, cranky, far-right within the 2% "classical music lovers" -- I have no interest whatsoever in most of the things an orchestra would do to broaden its appeal. Because that means more show tunes, more "light classics," and more Pachelbel's Canon. These things make my ears cringe.

So it's a good thing I'm not in charge at the Calgary Philharmonic.

The orchestra wisely bit the bullet and met their audience where they are -- not where we want them to be. And it worked. Sure, they have to wade through syrup every once in a while. But now they'll live on to do the cool stuff too. And I'll bet more than one new audience member has made the leap from Leroy Anderson to Gustav Mahler. That wouldn't have happened any other way.

Are you willing to make that kind of step? It might be painful. It means putting your needs below those of others. It's the only way.

(Thanks to The Fundit Blog for the tip.)


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Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants

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This week's Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants is open.

Start the conversation -- then listen

Want to know the biggest conversation-killer? It's: What shall we talk about?

Fearing that the upcoming customer-influenced film Snakes on a Plane might be a success, a recent article in Esquire bemoans what will happen when the ever-imitative Hollywood tries to copy the movie's method. You can just picture the swarm of focus-group and blogified movies. The "Snakes on a Plane" Problem notes that asking people what they want isn't always the best way to find out what they want:


When it comes to mass media, it's useless to ask people what they want; nobody knows what they want until they have it.

Talking to donors is a smart thing to do. Listening to them is smarter yet. Actually responding to what they want is smartest yet. But you need to start somewhere. And that somewhere needs to be remarkable. Otherwise, nobody wants to talk.

(Read more on Snakes on a Plane at Snakes on a plane! Customers want involvement!)


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There's life after 30

Book review: Life After the 30-Second Spot by Joseph Jaffe (2005)

Lifeafter
Jaffe says the 30-second TV spot is dead. Or at least dying. Or, if it's not dying, it should be killed.

In this age of media saturation, a flight of TV spots simply fails to be noticeable. Add to that the increasing skepticism of consumers (you don't believe everything you see on television, do you?) the irrelevant execution of most TV spots, and the very fact that there is no longer a mass audience to reach any more -- you can see that the old advertising system is in trouble.

In the nonprofit world, most of us are fortunate never to have bought into the bogus and over-inflated world of TV spot advertising. We couldn't afford it. But Jaffe's post-30 thoughts work for us too, and we're well positioned to take hold of many of them, since we're already steeped in the direct-marketing mindset that lives and dies by actual, measurable response.

Here are Jaffe's ten approaches that are transforming marketing:


  1. The Internet. This is where more and more people are turning for information, entertainment, shopping, and more. You need to be good at reaching and motivating people over the net.
  2. Gaming. Don't laugh! Check out Nonprofits and Second Life and Other Games at Beth's Blog.
  3. On-Demand Viewing. Can you produce material so good that people seek it out?
  4. Experiential Marketing. Here's another area where nonprofits have huge advantages. We're out there doing real things. Invite your donors along for the ride.
  5. Long-Form Content. Some nonprofits have been using this for years. If you can pull it off (on TV, radio, internet) you could have a very powerful fundraising tool.
  6. Communal Marketing. You probably have a natural community. Are you tapping into that?
  7. Consumer-Generated Content.
  8. Search. You should "own" certain search terms. Fact is, you can buy them.
  9. Music, Mobile, and Things That Make You Go Mmmm.
  10. Branded Entertainment.

Not all of these things are well-suited for nonprofits, with our older audience. But many of them are right up our alley. You need to be thinking about these things.

That's why I recommend you buy this book. You can chortle over the end of an advertising system that's been built on a foundation of stupidity, arrogance, and money. But more important, you can start thinking about your next steps in the changing marketplace.

(Jaffe also has a very good blog, Jaffe Juice, that covers these same topics.)

Life After the 30-Second Spot is available at Amazon and at Powell's.


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Some ways to improve your reply device

The reply device is the probably the most-active ingredient in a direct mail piece. Think carefully about it. Test and learn what works and doesn't.

And read this article in Inside Direct Mail: Reply Devices That Really Deliver. It has roughly a zillion ideas and principles for effective reply devices, including these:

  • Add an involvement device. Stickers and scratch-offs are standard, inexpensive, yet effective, fare.
  • Place a brightly colored sticky note on the reply device, and position it so it conceals part of your headline, offer or other pertinent information.
  • Make it an unusual shape or size.
  • Print it on colored stock that is different from everything else in the package.
  • Make sure to include all the essential information so that even if all the other components are lost, your reply device can still close the sale.
  • Even though images and colored text may pop more on a coated stock, stick with uncoated or matte papers to keep ink from smearing.
  • Use type no smaller than 10 point—larger if you are writing to seniors.
  • Create a sense of urgency so that the respondent doesn't have time to object.
  • Use a handwritten note . . . to thank them for responding, create a sense of urgency. . . or for any other message you want to draw special attention to.


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Opera company saves donor the agony of Europe trip

Sometimes the service we provide our donors when we receive their gift is not what you expect. Take the case of Eli Broad, financier, who gave Los Angeles Opera to underwrite the company's first production of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen.

Read about it here in the New York Times: Los Angeles Opera Is Given $6 Million for a 'Ring' Cycle

Why?

Because he knows the Ring Cycle is one of the crowning acheivements of human creativity? Because he wants to push the opera company to ever higher levels of accomplishment? Because he believes great opera can make his community a better place?

Probably.

But here's what Edythe L. Broad (that's Mrs. Eli) said:


"I wanted to see a 'Ring,' and my husband didn't really want to take me to Europe to hear it."

You never know, do you?

Bloggers attack nonprofit; donors win?

Unhappy bloggers have hammered companies ranging from AOL to Alaska Airlines. Sooner or later it had to happen to a nonprofit. And now it has.

The Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund presented an award to Sen. George Allen (R-VA) -- yes, that's Allen of "macaca" fame.

Read about it in a Washington Post story, Allen Declines Nonprofit's Award After Donors Criticize Choice. Here's the interesting part:

. . . several liberal bloggers caught wind of the fund's decision, describing it as "a travesty" and a "BAD joke." The sites listed phone numbers of the organization's senior executives and urged readers to call the numbers to protest.

When Allen heard about the noise, he backed away from the award, saving the Fund from the embarrassment of either giving it or retracting it.

How awkward. And it could happen to you. So ask yourself:


  • What should the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund do now?
  • Can they turn this to their advantage?
  • Are you ready for an out-of-the-blue backlash from the blogosphere?


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Steal the secret of the iPod brand

Name a successful brand. Good chance you said, "iPod" the MP3 player that totally dominates the market -- even though, functionally, all players are pretty much the same, and most of them are cheaper than the iPod. Apple really got it right. Partly because of the software. Partly the great design. And largely with slam-dunk branding, the kind hardly anyone ever pulls off.

The Brands Create Customers blog has a great post on this: The iPod changes the game in brand identity. There's a lot there, but pay especially attention to this:


In a traditional brand identity approach, the brand team develops a brand identity that's company-centric. The identity stems from a unique company "essence" that differentiates the brand from competitors and supports marketing goals. Unfortunately, this approach comes with a major problem out of the box: it treats brand identity as a proprietary "package" that's separate from the customer. . . . The customer is simply invited (or persuaded) to embrace it, and to become, in effect, a (passive) brand follower.

Customers care about brand identity when it helps them grow their own identity. In truth, they want their identity, not yours. In other words, effective brand identity is about them, and not exclusively about you.

If you care about your nonprofit's brand, tattoo that last sentence on your forearm.

Nearly every nonprofit branding initiative I've been aware of has been an intense effort to crystallize the organization's self-expression, compounded by adding the design tastes of the relatively young, sophisticated people in charge of it all -- leading to a brand identity that has nothing to do with donors.

We can do better.

A truly donor-centered brand probably won't make your heart sing. Because it'll be about the identity of donors -- who are, on the whole, older, more religious, less hip, and less expert than you are. If you build an identity that make you say Yes! I love it! -- you've probably left them puzzled and cold. Want to do it right? Be prepared to be the once who "doesn't get it."

But you can learn to live with it. The increased revenue will soften the blow to your ego.

(See also Branding: the snake-oil of our time?.)


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How to make a disaster not a disaster for you

Every disaster has two faces in the fundraising world. The last few years have dramatically pointed this out:

  • The Indian Ocean Tsunami of December 2004 motivated record giving to international fundraisers -- domestic fundraisers took a hit.
  • Then Hurricane Katrina broke the fundraising record again, this time for domestic fundraisers, but not international ones. (Of course, there are a number of hybrid organizations that "benefited" from both disasters.)

What do you do when a disaster hits, and it's not "your" disaster? Are you doomed to a massive financial hit?

Fundraising Success Magazine takes a look at this issue and offers Seven Disaster Fundraising Don'ts for those on the non-fundraising side of a disaster. Here are the tips (truncated by me; go read the whole article):


  1. Don't anticipate failure.
  2. Don't use the din as an excuse to not fundraise or to lower your goals.
  3. Don't disappear from donors' consciousness.
  4. Don't sell your cause short or apologize for your need.
  5. Don't be swayed by a single board member or major donor who has a heightened sense of fear or caution.
  6. Don't make assumptions that undermine your organization's need for support.
  7. Don't base your organization's decisions on unverified information.

The nonprofits that suffered the most from disasters they couldn't fundraise for were those that defeated themselves. With little faith in themselves or their donors, and weird theories about the way donors behave, they crawled into caves to wait it out.

The smart organizations easily rode out the storm. Sure, giving temporarily dropped, but in most cases it quickly returned to normal -- or even better than normal. They believed in themselves, and they kept talking to their donors, knowing that donors who support their cause won't be distracted for long, and will soon be back.

It's going to happen again, sooner or later. Don't let it crush your fundraising. It's up to you.


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How to do fundraising differently

Can you write a fundraising letter in your sleep? That's because there's a formula, a pre-programmed way of doing it that you can pretty much count on being decently effective.

But don't count on it lasting.

In his always-worthwhile Monday Morning Memo, Roy Williams takes a sharp look at our cousin discipline, advertising: Avoiding Ad-Speak. It should give us pause:


Ad-speak is filled with polished words and filtered phrases that deliver no information and have no relevance. Ambiguous claims give Ad-speak a hollow sound. . . . A meaningless statement remains meaningless no matter how often it's heard. Repetition has become a blunt instrument. . . . Today's customer expects meaningful information and lots of details. . . . Writing good ads is easy when you have something to say. Do you have something to say? Something we don't already know? Something that matters?

Roy could easily say the same thing about fundraising. It tends to sound a certain way -- a kind of unctuous, evasive tone that's hiding the fact that we want your money -- and nothing else from you. There's the empty threat that vaguely implies consequences around the corner, but without the guts to back it up. There's the bragging and posturing (this is where fundraising-speak is a lot like ad-speak).

I know why it's this way. It's because so many nonprofits are afraid to offer their donors something unique. And that's because they have nothing unique to offer -- they're just fund-gathering machines, not glorious communities where donors gather to realize their human potential and work together to change the world.

Do you want to break out of fundraising-speak? There are fairly good reasons for answering that question with a "no." But if you want change, here's what you need to do:

  • Actually do something that's more exciting, effective, and efficient than anyone else. Do and be something worth talking about. (This is the toughest part.)
  • Start talking to donors (not yourself).
  • Have a crystal-clear understanding of who your donors are. It's not everyone, but a group you can define and study.
  • Build programs around donor aspirations. Don't worry -- if you've defined your donors well, they won't hand you stupid and off-mission aspirations to work with!
  • No BS in your fundraising. Not even one word of it.

You can still get away with fundraising-speak. There are enough donors out there who give in spite of it, maybe even because it works for them. But not forever. There's a day coming when it flat-out won't work. And really, that day is half-way here already.


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The secret of creating buzz -- it starts with donors

Wonderful post in Eric Sink's Blog (which mainly covers the building and marketing of software) called How to get people talking about your product. Here's what he ways about the best way to generate the power of "buzz" about what you do:


  1. Find a Very Small Group of People that share common interests
  2. Build a product that 100% of them will love

This is radically different from the more common approach of creating something that everyone will be able to tolerate and hope enough of "everybody" buys it. Sounds simple? There's more:


The first step in getting people to talk about your product is to have a product that is worth talking about. Design something insanely great. Think about the folks in your Very Small Group of People, and build a product that they will love so much that they can't keep quiet about it.

This could easily apply to nonprofits. But it's tough, as most nonprofits design their programs around program needs, with donor needs seldom even considered. This is one of the main reasons so much fundraising is bad.

Following best-practice program wisdom, they tend to be a lot like their competitors, with subtle philosophical differences you need a graduate degree to grasp. (Then they try to make up the difference with new age branding magic.) This puts them in a spending race with their competitors -- they have to get to donors first, or loudest, or most eloquently. But they're basically a commodity.

Or they express their mission in terms so broad "everyone" can agree. That's nice, but it doesn't really excite that many people.

The Donor Powered organization would start by very clearly knowing a niche of donors. Then they'd match donor needs, beliefs, and aspirations with program expertise.

That nonprofit would have donors talking like crazy. Spreading the news among like-minded friends. Giving more and more often than the normal donor-base. Banging down the doors to do more. They'd accomplish more on less budget -- and have a much bigger impact on the world.

I'd love to talk with people who are doing it that way.


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What is this blog all about?

If you're serious about raising money from donors, you need to get serious about donors. More than ever before, donors are insisting that you share power with them, not treating them like passive ATMs. This blog is about the ways you can do that -- and the rewards that await you and your donors when you do.

About the Blogger

DonorPower Blog is penned by Merkle's Power Blogging Team, led by Greg Fox, our senior vice president of strategy. Working with Greg is a police line-up of guest "artists", fundraising pros all, who like to pose as blogatorialists when the sun goes down. You can reach this blog, and any of our regular contributors, at
donorpowerblog [at] merkleinc [dot] com. See this blog's policies.


A great partner for the nonprofit that wants to get donor-powered and grow revenue like crazy!
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