Don’t Be the Hippie Car of Nonprofits
Some time ago, while driving in my home base of Washington, D.C., I stopped at a red light next to a Honda Civic of a certain age. An old age. The hatchback and bumper were covered top to bottom with bumper stickers. You know the kind of car I’m talking about. There’s one in every traffic jam — especially if you live in a college town. It’s a compact car chockablock with a bewildering array of declarations of belief. Maybe you even drive one (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
It’s fine to drive such a vehicle, really, but it’s not OK to operate like that in the office. You see, that car got me thinking. I can’t get the image of the thing out of my mind. I think the reason is, that car is a rusting symbol on wheels of so many of the mistakes we make in our sector.
Too many nonprofits are the equivalent of what I call the hippie car. Here’s what I mean.
1. We’ve become bumper-sticker marketers.
As nonprofits, we tend to declare what we believe and think that’s persuasive. It’s marketing by mission statement, and it’s annoying to others.
Slapping a bumper sticker on a car is a one-sided way of declaring your views: You speak out, and everyone else is left to listen (and smell your exhaust). That’s your prerogative as a vehicle owner, but it should not be your style as a marketer.
If you are a very loud preacher for your cause who rarely breaks to listen to your audience — or take in its perspective — you could end up with an audience of one. Yourself. We should be passionate, but be in a conversation with potential supporters. Good marketing is not a stickerfest; nor is it a monologue. It’s a give-and-take.