Posts Tagged ‘fundraising’

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?

Taxes Pictures, Images and Photos
Not sure who said it, but the old expression “the only absolutes in life are death and taxes” always hits home (and wallet) this time of year.  Mrs. Membershipjedi and I prepare for an arduous annual meeting with our accountant.  I missed last year’s due to an event conflict out of town — and my lovely bride assured me that was not to happen again, ever.

Our two little tax deductions are growing quickly and we are determined not to provide them with any siblings, so any deduction is a good deduction.

I told my wife I was going to put the receipts for my purchases of Toms Shoes as deductions, to which she replied, “before you put anything in that folder, ask Richard” (our Libertarian accountant).

Richard was not familiar with Toms Shoes (<-click that if you’re not either).

I explained that for the pair I bought, a shoeless child somewhere in the world would receive a pair. When he was done laughing and picked the phone back up from the floor, he said that I’d have to give my pair to get a deduction, but nice try.

Despite losing out on a small deductible, I’m still in love with the idea of embedded generosity.  I see the bottles of water sold in Starbucks around town, Toms Shoes, etc.  Consumers respond quite well to products and services that maintain a charitable component.

As humans we inherently want to help others, and I’m convinced that as consumers if given the right product, we will purchase it knowing it will help others.

I’m developing the idea of the “Difference Maker Membership” — not sure if it can model Toms’ one-for-one, but I’m trying to get close.

Do you have or know of a product that can make a difference?

Be remarkable, not replaceable.