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December 2006

Trash your stock photo books: real is better than fake

In his excellent Freaking Marketing blog, Robert Rosenthal fires a great salvo: Fight the Real Enemy: Stock Photography. "Stock photography," he says, "is one of the biggest contributors to mediocrity in our industry."

The industry he's talking about is marketing, not specifically fundraising, but the truth applies to us too:


People who pull together concepts by rifling through stock photo books take an ass-backwards approach to creative development. We're supposed to start with an idea -- then figure out how to properly pull it off. We shouldn't begin with an image that needs an excuse to be used.

It's even more important in fundraising to stay away from stock photos. Because for fundraising to work, it has to be perceived as "real." And stock photography is inherently fake. It's set up, lighted, framed, and shot in ways that never happen in real life. The people are unusually photogenic and dressed in clothes that perfectly accent their features and look just right in their surroundings. These shots are so fundamentally different from real photos of real people, anyone can spot them as fakes.

You might as well put a big red label on your material that says NOT REAL.

And if seeming fake is bad, being fake is worse. If there's a stock house out there that sells real or real-looking photos, they're still not the real people and situations your organization is involved with. Unless you're okay with lying to your donors, you can't say, "This is a hungry child in the area where we're at work," or "Here's the family your generosity helped last Christmas."

Evgirl
Finally, there's the embarrassing situation that sometimes happens with stock: certain images get used again and again, with the same models showing up in print and on the web in unrelated -- even competing -- messages. Read about the "Everywhere Girl," who appeared in marketing for both Dell and Gateway, as well as a boatload of other ads and websites. Funny, but embarrassing.

So please: splurge on real photography. It's worth it.


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What you can learn from lame direct mail

Take a look at what's in your mailbox. How much of it is direct mail with no clear, compelling call to action?

More than one or two pieces, I'll guess. Why do they even bother to send it?

In a recent Direct magazine article, Albert Saxon looks at this very puzzle. How to Fail at Direct Mail takes bad-direct-mail-sending businesses to task:


Too many businesses have bought into the general advertising approach of stating your company name and nothing else. The faulty idea is that your company name is all that is needed to motivate a person to buy. That idea is as ridiculous as it sounds. Yet business owners or groups continue to promote their business or charity with nothing more than a postcard.

Yep, it's the Brand Shamans at work. They persuade the hapless businesses that their brand magic will drive people into happy acceptance of whatever it is they offer. That's not how it works. The brand exists in the hearts and minds of the customers, not in the mail you send.

Nonprofits are less susceptible to the Brand Shaman Kool-Aid. But not immune. There's a good chance in today's mail you have an amazingly ineffective piece of direct mail from a nonprofit. The piece that never gets around to directly revealing what they want you to do.

We're no different from the guy who wants to clean gutters. Direct mail is a waste of money unless it clearly, and compellingly gives a reason to say yes now. So before you even embark on a direct mail project, ask yourself: Do we know what we want the recipient to do? And have we given her plenty of reasons to do it?

If the answer is no, stop everything and try again.


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Should your donors solve your conflicts?

Seth describes one of those frustrated moments on the web in Whale Season.

He sees a web ad for a book. Looks interesting. He clicks through to buy a copy. But he doesn't end up someplace easy and familiar to buy the book (like Amazon); he's on the publisher's site, where ordering is more expensive and more cumbersome. The reason, he surmises (probably correctly): the publisher doesn't want to make bookstores mad by making it too easy or cheap for people to buy, so they put up a little barrier.

Seth quickly surfs away. No sale. Everyone loses.

I have a million ways to spend my time and my money, and [their] conflict problems are irrelevant to me. So I leave. The ad is wasted. The author is bitter.

If you are getting in the way of the path between your customers and your products, your customers are just going to go away. Clear the path, don't clutter it.

Nonprofits build traps like this for themselves too.

I've heard more than once that a fundraising message was "too strong" -- that it would make board members feel bad because the supposed sub-text is Our board is so lame, they can't prevent our having urgent needs! So they tone down their message and make it less motivating to donors (and raise less money). You can raise funds -- just don't do too good a job of it!

I've seen organizations shut down fundraising programs because they were too successful -- the workload was too much for staff!

The world is crowded and full of conflicts. Half the time you do anything, you step on somebody's toes. It's not easy to navigate them all. But if you want to succeed, you need a single-minded focus on what you're really here to do.

If what you do is important ...

If you need money to do it ...

If you rely on donors for that money ...

Then align your priorities so they can give as much as possible. Deal with the conflicts somewhere away from the donors!


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How not to apologize

Email from the Seattle Symphony the other day:


Dear Seattle Symphony Patron,

We are sending you this email in regard to the tickets you hold for a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

Friday, December 29, 2006, 8pm
(your tickets may have a different start time listed)

Due to a printing error some tickets were issued with an incorrect start time.

If your ticket shows an incorrect time, we can re-issue it with the correct information, if you would find this helpful. Otherwise you may attend the performance with your original ticket.......just remember that the show begins at 7pm.

(Emphasis added, so you can easily spot the problem.)

About half an hour later, after doubtless getting a flurry of messages asking when the concert really begins, the message was forwarded back, with the following added at the top:


PLEASE NOTE THE CONCERT IS AT 8PM!! Sorry for any confusion!

Sorry for any confusion! Yes, they said any confusion. As if somehow, I might have been confused by their message.

Excuse me, Seattle Symphony, but this isn't a case of "any confusion," where your befuddled readers might somehow have misconstrued what you said. This is a case of definite, complete, 100% confusion! Caused by you. This bureaucratic non-apology just doesn't match the situation.

If you do anything at all, you're going to make a mistake now and then. If your mistake inconveniences someone -- especially donors or customers -- you should own up to your mistake. Square your shoulders, swallow your gum, and apologize like the man or woman you are!

It's not a big deal. I'm sure I'll enjoy the 8 p.m. concert -- assuming that's when it really is. And I don't feel any less likely to buy tickets or donate in the future. Furthermore, I'm pretty sure the email writer wasn't really trying to pass the buck; he or she just used Sorry for any confusion without really thinking about it.

But your apology can be an occasion to come across as a human being. How refreshing that would have been.


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YouTube and OffBrand -- can you handle it?

Guy Kawasaki recently interviewed Jackie Huba and Ben McConnell (who author the excellent Church of the Customer Blog) in Ten Questions With Jackie Huba and Ben McConnell.

He asked them what companies should do when people make videos about them -- like Mentos and Diet Coke. Their answer was wonderful:


  1. Say nothing and let the citizen marketers have their time in the spotlight. It's a safe and conservative approach.
  2. Use your company website or blog to point to the citizen marketers in the spirit of "what people are saying about us." This opens the door to ceding control, and that's a good step. Just remember that citizen marketers don't follow instructions. This approach requires company spokespeople to have a sense of humor. That wasn't the case with the Coke, whose spokesperson was quoted . . . scolding people for not drinking their precious beverage!
  3. Quickly build a program around what's happening. It can be beneficial but also tricky because it can taint the grassroots nature of what's happening. Keep it simple. . . . Follow the lead of the community. And keep the company lawyers locked in a cage.

It must smart a bit when people make a YouTube video about you. Because they won't be brand compliant. In the Mentos/Diet Coke case, they advocated spilling Diet Coke all over the ground -- not drinking it. That's gotta be off brand! And I bet they didn't use the right font.

That's how it's going to be after the marketing revolution: People who really love you will talk about you; they'll spread the word -- free -- with great creativity and passion. They'll spread your name far beyond where you can afford it to go.

But they won't be brand-compliant.

Are you going to accept that loss of control?

Or do you prefer control -- and shrinking fundraising revenue from a public who doesn't know about you or care?

The choice is coming, and we're all going to have to make it to some degree.


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Emotion powers the fundraising engine

Want to persuade someone to give? Don't rely on facts.

Anyone experienced (and successful) in fundraising -- or any kind of marketing -- knows this. But maybe your boss or the committee you work with doesn't.

So here's some research you can show them: The message in advertising is irrelevant, new research shows. Short version: a British researcher found that emotional material, not factual material, made ads more persuasive:


Dr Robert Heath, from the University of Bath's School of Management, found that advertisements with high levels of emotional content enhanced how people felt about brands, even when there was no real message. However, advertisements which were low on emotional content had no effect on how favourable the public were towards brands, even if the ad was high in news and information.

The decision to give is an emotional one. It happens in the Right Brain, or not at all. If you want to move people to give, you need to understand the emotional part of your cause. It may be an image (even one you don't find very relevant, like The frustrating photo that works in fundraising). It might be a motivation that you don't admire, like guilt, ego gratification, or fear. It might be shamelessly nostalgic. Over-the-top sensationalistic. Corny. Hokey. Treacly.

Whatever it is, it's something emotional.

Facts play a supporting role. Many people, having been emotionally motivated to give, then try to talk themselves out of it. A good arsenal of facts can help overcome that and close the loop.

But start with, and build around, emotion. It's the only way that works.

See also
Donor Power and the right side of the brain.

Thanks to Living Brands for the tip.


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The secrets of using postage in fundraising

Postage can be a pretty boring topic, unless you’re a direct-mail nerd (like me). Either way, if you're doing direct mail, you should take a look at this article in Inside Direct Mail: The Great Postage Debate: Can it Really Pack a Punch?

There's more on the topic of direct-response postage than you'll find most places. To which I have only a few observations to add, based on years of testing:


  • Stamp, meter, and indicia all work about the same.
  • You'll often see a small lift in response if you use first class postage (rather than nonprofit bulk rate). It's not always enough of a lift to justify the added expense -- though it's worth it with your higher-end donors.
  • The one use of postage that makes the most difference: A first class stamp on the return envelope. It gives you meaningful jumps in response and often average gift too. But it also is less cost effective at the lower end of your file. The cut-off point (where the ROI of using postage this way stops paying for itself) is somewhere in the neighborhood of the $100 (cumulative in a year) donors.


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5 donor-friendly ways to raise unrestricted funds

Nearly everyone is dealing with this in some way or another. Can you raise restricted (earmarked, designated) funds from your donors? The Whitewater blog looks at this issue in I've seen the future - and it's earmarked:


If your charity is struggling to recruit new donors of the 40 to 60-year-old variety, maybe, just maybe, you're seeing evidence of their aversion to your 'strictly-unrestricted-funds-from-direct-marketing' policy.

Here's the problem for many nonprofits: Because large institutional funders (foundations, government, etc.) usually give tightly defined restricted funds, the individual donors, being at the bottom of the food chain, are left to give unrestricted funds -- the un-sexy funds that make everything possible.

But raising unrestricted funds is tough. And as the savvy, cynical Boomers move into the donor ranks, we're likely to see more and more individual donors demanding the same privileges we now reserve for institutional donors: They want their money to go where they want their money to go.

So how are you going to serve donors and still raise the unrestricted funds you need in order to keep operating? Here are some approaches you might take.

1. Donor negative option
This is the most common way fundraisers solve the problem. It's the check box on the reply device that says Use my gift where it's needed most. It allows the donor to look beyond the topic of the appeal at hand and unrestrict their gift. A certain percentage of donors always choose this option. I'll guess it has a positive impact on response (though I don't know, never having tested it); donors almost always respond to choice.

2. Donor positive option
This is pretty much the opposite approach, and I haven't seen this done. (I tested it once, but the results were not conclusive for a number of reasons.) Basically, you make it clear you're raising unrestricted funds, but include a check box that says something like Please use my gift exclusively for this project. My hypothesis (as yet not really tested): Few donors would choose this option, but they'd respond well to having the choice.

3. Blanket disclaimer
This is what most of the catalog fundraisers (like Heifer International) do. They say something like All gifts are symbolic and help fund the entire work of the organization. That seems to legally get you off the hook, and I'll guess most donors are okay with it. To me (and the organizations I work with agree), it feels a little sleazy.

4. "Permission unrestricting" after the fact
I love this one, though I have no experience with it. Here's what happens: You raise restricted funds, then if you raise too much for your needs, you go back to donors and ask them if you can redirect their gifts. I've heard that Médecins San Frontières did this after the Indian Ocean Tsunami. This is a very donor-honoring strategy. And honestly, how many donors are going to say no? The risk of losing revenue is tiny.

5. Promote the advantages of unrestricted giving
Unrestricted gifts may be un-sexy, they're important. Why not tell your donors that? The problem, of course, is that's left-brain info, and giving is a right-brain decision. But there might be a back-end way to promote this idea among your more committed donors.

This is a fairly frequent topic on this blog. If you're interested, see also these posts:


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The Gates Foundation challenge to you

Good news or bad? The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will accept donations from anyone who wants to give -- not just Warren Buffett. (Story here.) It seems that ordinary donors, inspired by the example of Mr. Buffett -- and no doubt motivated to align themselves with the power and smarts of the Gates Foundation -- have been sending money. The Foundation's Chief Executive, Patty Stonesifer, said:


. . . the foundation won't solicit money and prefers people give directly to charities working in related areas. But those who want to donate to the foundation shouldn't be turned away . . . .

The flurry of news from the Gates Foundation over the past few months has raised the profile of philanthropy and the very idea that we can tackle and even solve huge problems. That's good. Very good for all nonprofit organizations that raise funds.

But this sword cuts two ways.

Without even trying, the Gates Foundation has become a sort of charity superbrand. They're bigger than you. They're smarter than you. What donor wouldn't be attracted to that kind of clout for their charitable giving?

You hardly stand a chance!

Unless you offer something they don't, and probably never will: Donor Power. You can be a place where donors get connected to the causes they care about. Where they get empowerment, choice, community, connectedness, and even fun around the passions they share with you and each other.

If you're willing and able to structure yourself around donors and build your brand around their needs and aspirations, you needn't worry about the 800-pound gorilla in the room.


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Two ways to be better

The best way to do better is to be better.

Moleskine
Let me tell you about something that's better. It's a line of blank notebooks called Moleskine. The small one that I use costs around $10. Pretty dumb, huh? I could get a notebook at the drugstore for under $2. And every time I go to a conference I bring home two or three for free. Yet I shell out ten bucks. Because it's better than the other options in two ways:

1. Better features

The paper is acid free, so it won't turn brown and crumble in a few years. The pages are rounded off, so they don't get dog-eared. It's bound so it can lie open flat. There's a ribbon bookmark. There's an elastic strap that holds it shut. The oilcloth cover looks and feels nice. All around, it's well made and a pleasure to use.

These superior features are an advantage it could lose. Some manufacturer, even now, is working on a notebook with similar (or even better) features that will cost less. That's why Moleskine's second advantage is so important ...

2. Better story

This isn't just any notebook. It was supposedly used by some very cool people, like Picasso, Van Gogh, Mallarmé, and Hemingway. Travel writer Bruce Chatwin was obsessed with his Moleskines. Part of the story is that the original manufacturer died; when Chatwin tried to buy some at his favorite Paris bookshop, he was told, "Le vrai moleskine n'est plus." That quote is always in French in the Moleskine story -- it flatters me that they tell it to me without a translation -- of course I understand and fully appreciate it!

It just reeks of creativity, sophistication, and quality. The features and the story come together to make it almost irresistible.

I'm not the only one who thinks so. These things are selling. Never mind the price. There's even a Moleskine Blog (several of them, actually). Because this is a product that's better -- better features, better story.

Can you do that with your nonprofit mission? Actually make it better? Thank about it.

Better features:


  • More effective than the usual organization?
  • Leverages the donor's gift in a better way?
  • Does something more impactful than others?
  • Empowers donors in a stronger way?

Better story:

  • Connects with the donor's aspirations better than others?
  • Connects to a great heritage that donors would be proud to be part of?
  • Has amazing spokespersons, living or dead?
  • Affirms a donor's beliefs about herself?

Figure these things out -- and make them so -- and you'll be on the path to an amazing future!


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When your marketing makes you look stupid

Diabetes

The smart, funny guy who runs Webpagesthatsuck.com got a piece of direct mail from the American Diabetes Association that made him scratch his head -- and then blog: Unclear on the Concept:


Most of you know that sugar is poison to a diabetic -- a wonderful tasting poison. So it seems a little strange to me that the address label and some of the "free" address labels inside the envelope show a CANDY CANE.

I can imagine how it went when they created this mailing. They'd been testing images for their mailing label packages. "Holiday images will work," someone said. It rang true. So they got some generic holiday designs. So far, so good.

Candy canes are high on almost anyone's list of holiday images, right?

And I'll bet dollars to donuts (Oops! More sugar!) that this was tested a long time ago, and has been mailing successfully ever since.

Except, now and then, when somebody gets the mailing and says, Candy on a mailing from the Diabetes Association? WTF? To that person, the Association looks like a bunch of blithering idiots.

The people at the Association would be fully justified in saying: Give us a break! It's just a pretty picture -- we aren't advocating a Candy Cane Diet! Or maybe, Only one in a jillion people even notices this, and only one in a jillion of those who do cares!

Still, they need to change that image. Because they need to seem (or better yet, actually be) totally and obsessively focused on their anti-diabetes mission. Even in the small and symbolic ways. That's how to demonstrate that they deserve their donors' dollars.

Update: It's been pointed out to me that sugar is not, in fact, "poison" to people with diabetes. See the comments for a good explanation.


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What can YouLearn from YouTube?

What if they called a panic and nobody showed up? That's kind of what happened in a recent NonProfit Times article, Social Networking: Brands Become Vulnerable in Cyberspace. The thesis of the article tried to be something like this: Donors, volunteers, and others can do anything they want on social networking sites like YouTube.com. That -- gasp -- means we aren't in control! They could do anything! Anything at all! And so on.

Fortunately, the nonprofit leaders (from the American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association) interviewed didn't share in the panic. They properly responded with the sanguine attitude that attention is good, even when you're not totally in control, and the danger posed by out-of-control messages is pretty small.

But that hardly dissuaded the intrepid NPT reporter! In a sidebar headlined "Edgier Images Shoot Through YouTube" (unfortunately only in the print edition), he raised the specter of edgy material appearing on YouTube in behalf of nonprofits:


YouTube.com flashes in the face of viewers as a new form of information where edgier and more dramatic material tries pry open the emotional depths.

Really now. Any marketing or fundraising we do ought to at least try to "pry open the emotional depths." The stuff we talk about, the causes we support matter a lot! They're worth getting emotional about. Even edgy.

The truly scary thing isn't what might happen on YouTube, but what's already happening in direct mail: Bland, dull, unemotional material that's been vetted to death by lawyers, brand experts, and other bureaucrats. That pap doesn't have the power to motivate and excite people -- and its residual power to awaken them to duty is waning every day.

It's so bad, the amateurs on YouTube can do better work!

So be thankful if someone cares enough about you to put something edgy and dangerous about you on YouTube. Check out their work. Learn from them. Do what it takes to be as interesting and emotional as they are. And by all means, don't worry about what they might do! Worry more about what you aren't doing.


Fundraising vs. Evil

Don't you love it when scientists prove true something your mother used to say? In this case, it turns out that the love of money is the root of all evil is true. (See the Scriptural context for that here.)

As reported in the Neuromarketing Blog post Thinking About Money, scientists at the University of Minnesota prompted subjects to think about money, then put them in social settings. The slightly scary results:


People who had been reminded of money waited nearly 70% longer to seek help than those who hadn't. People cued to think of money also spent only half as much time, on average, assisting another person who asked for their help . . . and picked up fewer pencils for someone who'd dropped them. . . . Volunteers reminded of money preferred working alone even if sharing the task with a co-worker resulted in substantially less work. . . . the findings suggest that thinking of money puts people in a frame of mind in which they don't want to depend on others and don't want others to depend on them.

Money messes with you!

And that's where fundraising comes in. When you encourage people to voluntarily part with their money, you've enabled them to convert money into good deeds. So instead of thinking about money and getting all weird and anti-social, they're thinking about making the world a better place. And that, if the scientists looked into it, I'm confident would be found to make people more social, helpful, and happy.

So crank out an appeal! Strike a blow against evil!

See also Do your donors a big favor: ask them to give and Your other good deeds.


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Why your newsletter matters

There's a good article over at About Nonprofit Charitable Orgs by Terry Axelrod: The Art of Recognizing and Thanking Your Donors. Here's the nub:


Most donors don't need plaques or trinkets, which often cause donors to question your spending priorities.

Donors want to see what their gifts allowed you to accomplish -- specific facts and stories of how they changed the lives of real people. This is how they will know their money was put to the best use in your programs and services.

I wouldn't completely discount plaques and trinkets, because if you do it right (not an easy if), they can really cement donor relationships. But the more important point is this: The most important kind of donor recognition is to tell the donor what her giving accomplished.

And the single most effective way I know of to do that is to publish a donor-centric newsletter.

Donor-centric means it's not a newsletter where you brag about your accomplishments. It's about your donors: Their accomplishments, their impact, their interests. Somewhere between two and twelve times a year, send your donors a newsletter that does these things:


  • Thank and acknowledge the donor constantly. Nearly every article should specifically address the donor the remind her that her giving is what makes it all possible.
  • Be interesting. Tell human stories, and tell them in the most exciting way possible. (Study the National Enquirer for headline and copywriting tips!)
  • Go easy on the statistics. Always put them in the context of human interest.
  • Don't forget to ask. Your donors give not only to make a difference, but because giving feels good. Don't deny them the opportunity to give again.
  • Give readers avenues of involvement beyond giving, like volunteering, making gifts-in-kind, advocating on your behalf, visiting your work, and more.


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They're looking at us: II

An article in this week's Chronicle of Philanthropy takes a look at the blogs that cover the nonprofit world. Like this one. Blogs on the Rise is free to read. (Some related articles, including 10 Nonprofit Blogs That Get Attention, are available to subscribers only.)

To sum it all up:

. . . while [bloggers] have high-minded goals for their blogs about nonprofit groups, it is still too early to tell whether the increasing number of such sites are leading an online movement or are merely faint voices in the vast Internet wilderness.

Yeah, I know the feeling.


Be your donor, if you dare

Here's a terrific idea from Katya's Nonprofit Marketing Blog: "Be your donor" day.

The idea: Find out first-hand what it's like to be a donor to your organization. You might be surprised. What you believe is happening could be a long way from what's actually happening. Here are some of Katya's suggestions:


  • Call your switchboard and see what happens when you ask for help or information
  • Send an email to your nonprofit’s donor services department . . . and see if you get a cordial response
  • See how many seconds it takes . . . to find out to donate on your web site
  • Donate to your own organization so you see how your thank-yous arrive . . .

How does it feel?

Here are two more you might try:


  • Try to find your organization by Googling words related to your cause. Can someone who cares about your issues -- but doesn't know who you are -- find you?
  • Empty your mind of all prior knowledge (not easy; studying your 990s might help) and read your direct mail or other marketing. Does it make sense, or are you using insider jargon. Is it human, or formulaic?


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How to listen in on all the conversations about you

You're in a room full of people. They're all talking. Some of them are talking about you; of those, some are extolling your greatness, while others are slandering you. Any given statement -- positive or negative -- can suddenly spread across the room and be perceived as the truth by most of the people there.

That's the way it is. Blogs, online forums, message boards, wikis -- people are hanging around and chatting. The good news is, you can listen to everyboday. You just have to know how. A great place to satrt is this article at Marketing Pilgrim: Online Reputation Monitoring Beginners Guide.

A lot there to get you in on the conversations. Your chance not only to know what's being said, but to do something about it.

Thanks to The Bamboo Project Blog for the tip. See also How to join the blog conversation without even blogging.


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Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants

Npcarnival_1
This week's Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants is hosted at Aspiration Tech.

Sky is falling; U.S. nonprofits need to duck and cover

The latest media meme about the nonprofit sector: We're in huge trouble. A story at MSNBC, For U.S. charities, a crisis of trust, says:


Americans' charitable spirit peaks during the holiday season, but this year the urge to give is battling a strong contrarian tide -- a crisis of trust born from public disenchantment with a philanthropic system that many consider disorganized, under-regulated and tainted by scandal.

A similar piece in the Washington Post, Donating, With Care, claims:


Feeling singed by the recent troubles at charities, many people are thinking twice about where their money goes and aiming more of their dollars at grass-roots groups close to home.

These stories, and others like them, quote a recent scary Harris Poll on attitudes toward charities that includes these alarming stats:


  • 32% of Americans think the nonprofit sector in America has "pretty seriously gotten off in the wrong direction"
  • Only 10% strongly agree that charitable organizations are honest and ethical in their use of donated funds.

Please take a few minutes to run around in panicked circles, screaming at the top of your lungs.

Done? Good. Now take a deep breath and we'll look at some of the facts:


  1. There's no evidence that the advancing wave of Charity Doom is universal, or even especially widespread. Many nonprofits -- from scrappy new ones to well-run old-line giants -- are growing like crazy. The difference between the winners and losers: ability to adapt to changing conditions and donor demands.
  2. Another factor troubling some nonprofits is involvement in scandals. It's awfully hard to shake a scandal; if you're not squeaky-clean and the media catch up with you, your organization will be hurting for a long time.
  3. You should always take polling data with a grain of salt. Note that the Harris Poll asked "Americans" their thoughts on charities, not donors. That's a little like including non-voters in political polls.
  4. The important grain of truth in all the panic is this: Donors are growing more cynical. Scandals are just one reason. The other is the new generation of donors -- Boomers. They're just plain more cynical that older generations, and they're entering the ranks of donors. If you're not able to answer their cynical questions and satisfy their suspicious strategic demands, you're going to be lost in the coming years.

You are not doomed. While some very large and heavy acorns are falling, the sky is still firmly attached above our heads and is unlikely to fall any time soon.


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Marketing: no longer a department

Who should be doing the marketing in a nonprofit organization? Well, how about the Marketing Department?

Think again. The Make Marketing History Blog, in a good post titled The J Train (A Marketing 2.0 Minifesto), makes some excellent observation about marketing after the marketing revolution. At the end of the short piece comes this important statement: Marketing Is Not a Department. Instead ...


Marketing is a combination of elements that creates the environment in which it is possible to meet a customer need (starting right back at product development). It operates online and off and should inform and occupy every aspect and department of an organisation. More than ever before, it is everybody's job.

It doesn't matter how smart (or lacking in smarts) your Marketing Department is. If marketing isn't built through your entire organization from top to bottom and side to side, you're going to be lost.

It's everyone's job to tell the story in a motivating and exciting way.

It's everyone's job to articulate the mission in a way that donors, prospective donors, and third parties (like the press) can understand.

It's everyone's job to create programs that donors love.

It's everyone's job to take part in the conversation that's forming around the things you impact.

It's everyone's job to know, understand, and respect donors.

Sadly, many nonprofit marketing departments think it's their job to be gatekeepers for these functions, keeping everyone else out of marketing. And that leads, usually, to an irrelevant marketing department that spends its time and energy controlling the message and keeping others quiet, while they themselves neglect the real thing, the genuine conversation that is what marketing is becoming.

If you can overcome this dysfunction, your marketing has a chance to soar beyond your dreams.


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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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