Archive for the ‘Fund Raising’ Category

The current economic climate has all businesses and organizations under unprecedented scrutiny.  Nonprofits are not immune to scrutiny, organizations known for doing more with less are now often expected to do much more with much less.  Sure beats being a bank or firm on Wall Street…maybe.

Does it take money to raise money?
Kind of.  There is nothing worse for any business or organization to be referred to as “the best kept secret in town” — ouch!  Building awareness is a key objective of any nonprofit.  I’ve worked with nonprofits that are more well known to those needing their services than to the local philanthropic community — interesting how we can be viral with the community that needs us and not exist to the community that we need.  Awareness campaigns are not easy and they can cost money.

Everyone’s a critic
A well designed marketing or awareness campaign can certainly bring out the critics.  “Such a fancy event, mailer, flier, brochure, etc. that money should go to those in need!”  And don’t dare try to  upgrade your website — “how can you cry poverty (critic-speak for request donations) when spending on such extravagances?!?”  I have seen television ads for banks that received TARP funds, I see ads for bailed out corporations, yet people will quickly criticize and scrutinize a small nonprofit and its efficiencies long before they mouth off to a corporate behemoth.  Bailed out companies can surely have advertising, sales and marketing be 10% or much more of their operating budget, but a nonprofit is expected to keep theirs at 1% or less?

Damned if you do, lost if your don’t?
Building a relationship is a journey, a journey of trust and not to be taken lightly.  Call me arrogant, but if you are unable to bear witness to the impact my organization is having on the families in our community, we probably won’t make good partners (or my message was somehow lost).  I’m looking for shareholders that measure our results by depth of impact, not how we build awareness.  If you’re focused on the quality of a piece of paper I may need to work on my content.

Awareness to relationship
Nonprofits must focus on building relationships with those that embrace their mission and impact.  Relationship building is an art.  We move from casual (we are aware of each other), connected (you’ve donated or attended an event), to committed (you are at the table with us).  Too often we embroil ourselves with our critics and waste precious energy responding to their challenges.  I believe if we dug a little deeper into the mindset of the critic, they are simply justifying their “no” (unfortunately out loud).  Focus on those who are connected, for they will serve as a platform of growth.

I challenge the critics — put your money where your mouth is — underwrite or sponsor design, billboards, ad placements, direct mailings, call campaigns, text giving campaign, website upgrades, online giving programs, and other marketing/awareness activities — display your committed belief in the cause and those in need, THEN come share your thoughts on efficiencies.  Until then, a simple “no” is acceptable, thanks for your consideration.

We must avoid the tendency to plan and execute awareness campaigns based on what the critics may say — it is a recipe for disaster.  It’s not a nonprofit, but when was the last time Apple sought the approval of critics?  Create masterful content that inspires and motivates supporters and prospective supporters to act.

Thoughts?  It’s OK to call me crazy.


Why I do it.

I’m often asked, why nonprofit?  I’ve had friends and board members try to whisk me away to the world of grand profits and rewards yet here I remain.  Just the other day over coffee a friend literally lectured me on why I should be “in marketing” (whatever that means), and then I shared my story.

Here’s why.

After a tour of our facility, an attractive young woman asked if she could meet me.  She sat in my office while her 7 year old daughter played with my mug full of ‘silly band’ bracelets (don’t ask).  Then she removed her sunglasses and revealed two black eyes.  Her story:

I have just left a very abusive relationship (as a Dad to two girls, I was sickened and angry) he is in custody, yet I’m out here looking to rebuild my life.  My daughter and I are sleeping in a spare room of some friends for now.  We are miles from home and left with all we could fit in our car.  I have nothing, my husband controlled our finances and I was a stay-at-home Mom.  Is there some way my daughter can play in the volleyball league?  I promise to repay you when I can.

I paused, not for effect but because I was speechless.  This articulate, well educated, impeccably dressed, with her stylish Coach bag and Tag Heuer watch without a hair out of place woman is someone I would likely have approached for a significant donation.  Now her world was upside down.  I was also seething at the idea of another human being causing those black eyes.  My response was simple, “We can do something.  Consider your daughter in our league and I’d also like to provide you with a membership for the two of you.  We can’t take away your challenges ahead, but we can provide you and your daughter a brief break.  And don’t you dare think about repaying us.  It’s why we’re here.”

I’m able to do that in my work.  Great volunteers, advocates, supporters and donors make it possible.  We make a difference.  It may be nonprofit however we spiritually profit by being the bridge between generous donors and those in need when they need us.

That’s why I do it.

Why do you do it?

Tactics, Templates, Trash

It’s clear that organizations need to adapt and evolve in order to attract, engage, and retain future generations of members, donors, customers, and shareholders (my alarm sounding post).  Or be lost to irrelevance and obscurity.  At least it’s a choice.  Playing basketball or learning to swim with us at 6 years old no longer means a committed volunteer and donor at 26 years old.

The “how” in remaining being relevant is still being written — dictated by the largest generation in history by the way.  Too often we hunt for the tactics — “just give me the ‘how-to’ list and I’ll follow it.”  Unfortunately, there will not be a “How to market to a Gen Xer/millennial so they buy or give” in-a-box kit.  Maybe I need to develop and market an out-of-box kit.  We’re making our own shoes (NikeID), our shoes result in a tangible donation (Toms Shoes), building our own cars (Mini), designing our own computers (Dell), designing our own philanthropy (Donors Choose), we can design our own credit cards.  Customized, synchronized and personalized — a creative stamp on MY world…a brief and virtual legacy.  We need tactile, not tactics.

Trash the Templates
Nonprofit organizations (and most small businesses I work with) love templates, I mean really, really love them.  Boiler plate, back when I had your job, why reinvent the wheel, just change the date from 1987, have you seen my leg warmers, it’s on this 3.5″ disk, been-there-done-that leadership at its finest. Big donors, loyal members, big loyal customers all get the same stuff — little cut, copy and paste and “voila!” a retention loyalty program.  The future has us creating customized individual plans and programs, texting, tweeting, bumping, IM’ing, foursquaring, gowallaing, Facebook paging, and yelping.  If I told you 5 years ago that being “liked” (thank you Facebook) was going to be a success metric, you’d laugh me off stage; which, ironically, I was 2 years ago…twice.  And mass direct mail…”dude, just send it to my parents’ house I guess, I might get it when I’m back from Costa Rica where I’m working on a clean water project” — yeah, that’s a strategy for a different era.  Baby boomers may have broken the mold — we’re breaking the templates.

Are the new T’s: texting, touching, technology?  Connecting the relevant dots will insure a relevant future.  Otherwise, it’s an uphill walk to school: both ways, barefoot, and in 10 feet of snow.

The landscape is fast changing, what can we be doing to ensure we’re a part of it?