Thursday, August 23, 2012

don't squint on the highway

I squint a lot on the highway. I'm usually trying to figure out why a marketer would plaster a billboard with engaging content and then place their organization's name, logo, or URL in the bottom right corner ... in a squint-inducing size. I often don't have time to figure out who paid for the billboard. And the funny part is, I actually wanted to know.


But (fortunately for many reasons) not everyone is a marketing geek like me. In fact, most people would rather ignore billboards, commercials, and every other infiltrating piece of marketing that bombards their everyday lives. So, if a marketer on a mission to read a billboard can't read it, how will a driver who is intentionally avoiding it get the message?

They won't.

But, it's not just billboards. It's newspaper ads under a half page in size. Coupons on the back of receipts. The corporate sponsors at the very bottom of an event's webpage.

It's not that limited reach is worthless. But limited reach (offered by the mini ads, receipt backs, and poor logo placement) merits only limited investment, so be sure to monitor prices carefully in order to have your organization come out ahead. And when you invest in a medium that offers expansive reach, like a giant billboard, make yourself known. If you're a nonprofit, you'll answer to donors for your stewardship of their gifts, so make sure your advertising is worth the cost.

Wherever you advertise, be sure give your name, your logo, and/or a call to action.

Just don't make your audience squint on the highway. It's better for everyone involved.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

spending + smiling / part 2

It's been a while since I first wrote on the spending-smiling principle.

It's an interesting time in my life to talk about money. My husband and I just became debt free, we shifted our monthly charitable giving, and I gave to my first political campaign. We got more medical bills then we expected, but we got more freelance jobs than we anticipated. We've started coupon clipping, but somehow that seems to make us buy more groceries...

In any case, I followed through. Whether or not anyone reads this blog, in this instance, it became my anchor of accountability. So when I exited the highway on my way home from work and saw a man asking for money, I pulled out a larger bill than I normally would have. I put my trust in the person I gave the money to and the God who I believe prompted me to give, instead of worrying about what the person may or may not spend it on.

But I'll be honest, it didn't feel that great. I don't regret doing it, but I'm not sure if I was happier for it. Now, there is self-reflection that comes out of that lack of cheerful giving and what it says about the state of my heart. I was obedient but not joyful--and that post-Ninevah state is not where I want to be.

However, this is a nonprofit marketing blog and that's what I will focus on here--mainly in dealing with the question: Why doesn't money buy happiness as easily as Michael Norton claimed? Well, I think it comes down to his methods.

Remember, he gave money to people so they could spend it on others. It wasn't their money to start with. In fact, the subjects of his study didn't really have a choice as to whether they'd spend that money on themselves or not. They only had a say in what hands, other than their own, the money (or its results) would land in.

This mirrors a "click to give" site, where it costs nothing for the public to give. This is like sharing your cause of choice on Facebook. This is like using free stickers with breast cancer awareness ribbons to seal your letters. All good things, but they don't require much self-sacrifice, at least not in terms of the advocate sacrificing his or her own money.
So how do we engage givers using this principle (that when one is given money, they are happier spending it on others than spending it on themselves)? I've seen a few examples worth noting.

Matching gifts
Who isn't happy to see their dollar go further? By offering a match of $1, $2, or $3 per donor dollar (though I've heard that studies show dollar-for-dollar matching actually is the most effective), donors are given "free" money to their cause for each contribution they make.

This also can be seen in an eco-conservation program, like the energy recovery fund at our college which offers ROI through the cost-savings that result from energy conservation.
Tax return messaging
Ask donors to give what they didn't know they had--their tax return money! They likely haven't budgeted for their return, so if spending this unexpected cash on someone else really does increase happiness, you do donors a favor by helping them fund a literacy program instead of a weekend at the beach.

Best of both worlds
Help your cause, help yourself! That's the motto behind gifts for donors--calendars, address labels, magazine subscriptions, etc. Make the donor happier in a tangible (but inexpensive) way as you put their gifts at work in the world.

It's up to us as marketers to appeal to a donor's natural desire for easy giving. And, in the end, it's up to us as donors to strive for something more than just easy.

Just my two cents...match it with yours and drop me a line.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

power of a story

A large part of marketing a nonprofit is storytelling.

Even with all the resources Calvin can offer a student like Marcia Beare, passionate and compassionate learners like her give so much more back to the college's community.

Photo by Rick Treur

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

spending + smiling

So money can buy happiness. My boss sent me this video to prove it:

Michael Norton said it much better than I can. And of course, this principle supports what we do as nonprofits.

But I'd like to step away from the craft of marketing for a moment to look at the ways we, individually, miss our regular opportunities for this kind of happiness.

And make no mistake: I'm right there with you.

I challenge you to do one of the following giving exercises this week. My friends have been challenging me to do the same.

Then feel free to comment and let me know how it feels, and I will too.

Pay it backward
That person in line, in the drive-through, or at the table behind you--they could use a break and a blessing! Cover their tab or pay part of their bill ... as quietly as possible.

Unexpected gift
This week, when you see that gift that reminds you of someone, buy it for them. Don't save it for their birthday; give it to them just because.

Don't just drive by
Do you live in a community where you see people asking for money on the street? If you do, carry cash or buy hearty snacks to have on-hand in your vehicle the next time you see someone in need during your commute.

Give through
Take Michael Norton's suggestion and visit to support a school in your city or across the country.

Or ... invite a friend to lunch and pick up the check, send flowers to congratulate someone, sponsor a child, check with a local food pantry or animal shelter to see what items they need (and buy some), or find your own way to spread happiness through your giving!

I'm looking forward to hearing about it.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

postmodern marketing

In our postmodern culture, nothing goes unexamined.

We are fish who notice water. We break apart the everyday and the conventional, and feel all the smarter for it. We deconstruct humor with a stern face, but we also laugh in the face of social norms. Case in point: someecards.

Here are a few apt cards that reveal truths about the marketing field:

So maybe it's time to follow the old adage: Laugh with them so they can't laugh at you.

My question: When will nonprofit marketing catch up to postmodernity?

We children of the postmodern age have learned to poke fun at our predecessors. But now that we're marketers, we're scared to use the techniques which are most effective on us. Instead, we set up rituals, appeal to nostalgia, and stick with age-old formulas.

When will we start making fun of ourselves? When will we dare to point out the fact that we're raising money? At it's core, what we're asking for is not an investment or a gift. It's a donation. It's giving up your money ... for something better.

No, we don't need to see a noble cause as a farce. Our organizations don't have to be subject to ridicule. But taking ourselves as fundraisers less seriously can help us relate to donors.

Let's rip off the masks.

What if we said: "We want your money. Here's why."

That would require a compelling reason to give, and a less tricky way to disguise the "ask."

Sounds a bit more ethical. Sounds a bit more like what the postmodern world is craving.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

dinner time!

Tonight our development team is recognizing leaders in annual giving to the college. So before I head off to enjoy the music, the meal, and the mingling, let's look at why it's a good idea to host a tribute dinner:

1. Show off
When you host friends for dinner, you bring out your best recipes, serveware, and dishes. When you host donors for a tribute dinner, you have the opportunity to show them how their dollars are hard at work. In preparing for tonight, our events team has made sure we're using one of our most impressive venues at the college, featuring student speakers, and highlighting an amazing campus choir. Plus, donors are being seated with students so they see firsthand the lives they're affecting!

2. Remind them of the cause
You have a captive audience with happy stomachs. It's time to bring out your best speakers to drive home your messaging. Direct mailers, form letters, and e-mail campaigns can't match the influence you have at a live event.

3. The role of recognition
Philanthropists can be selfless, giving, altruistic. But like it or not, everyone's ego craves a boost now and then. At the very least, a recognition event shows donors in a tangible way that you value their support.

4. Sense of community
At a tribute dinner, donors see they're not pulling weight of the cause on their own. Their tablemates enforce the sense that we're all in this together, and donors are less likely to leave a community they feel connected to.

And one more thing... Consider leaving your guests with a physical reminder of your cause. Personalized favors like mint tins, mugs, or magnets advertise your cause long after donors finish dessert.

Monday, April 16, 2012

the gift and the gimmick

Leo Burnett is at it again. The creative powerhouse created a series of simple but interactive donation boxes for Dubai Cares. In my opinion, they top all the innovative giving contraptions we've seen.

Why? Because the gimmick connects with the gift. 

It's not just a fun way of giving to a good cause, it's a representation of how your gift works. Plus, it sparks a positive and immediate emotional response in the giver, which makes future giving more likely.

Watch how these boxes visually communicate the impact a donor's gift makes in the life of a child.

This example of marketing brilliance should challenge us to change the way we fundraise so that we can improve the giving experience for our donors.

Until next time, reach and rally, my friends.