Sleepless in 2013?
So it may be with a rescue mission that their brand is all about helping the least, the last and the lost, downtrodden people. Or World Vision’s brand is how do we do sustainable community development through child sponsorship. Every organization can kind of capsulate who they are and what they do, but it’s risky because sometimes you’ll pick what you do instead of what you want your donor to support. You’ll pick your success instead of your need. And if you do that, you can’t raise money.
MP: Tom, how do you do that in a way that doesn’t … the example that’s sticking out from what you said was “we feed hungry people” vs. “we give hope to the poor.” Have you found organizations that are good at accentuating the need without demeaning the people that their services are being provided to?
TH: Absolutely. I can give you an example of where it didn’t work; then let’s try to talk together about where it does. United Cerebral Palsy was doing a television special to raise money. Halfway through the special, they said, “You can’t make these people that we serve look like they need help. We want to show the dignity and the life and the worth and everything else …”
And we said, “You know, if you don’t want to show that they need help, you’re going to put a TV show on the air that’s not going to raise any help because you convinced the people they don’t need help.”
So you’ve got to use different vehicles like newsletters, magazines, presentations, different vehicles where you can talk about all aspects of what you do. But when you’re talking to an audience of donors, you have to make sure that you’re always underscoring “we’re making progress” — tell a little success story — “and the need is still great. You’re part of something that’s working, and the need is still great.” It’s a one-two punch. And you always have to show the success — “you’re investing in success and the need is still great.” And when you forget about the need because you’re talking about how well things are going, that’s when you get in trouble.