To the Point: The Great Debate: Which Channel Is Best?
There’s a lot of debate in the blogosphere and elsewhere these days regarding the efficacy of different fundraising and marketing channels. It goes something like this: “Is direct mail dying?” “Will social media kill e-mail?” “Will mobile rule the marketing roost?” “Should I tweet … or blog?”
This conversation is something of a boxing match between traditional direct marketers and those who revel in new media. The goal is to win the fight and determine which channel is best. While these conversations do make for good sport — I admit it … I’ve catalyzed and participated in quite a few — they’re not terribly helpful. We need to reframe the debate.
A more fruitful dialogue about how to advance the sector’s marketing efforts should focus on these key questions. Only then should we discuss channel match.
Who are we, and what do we do?
After working with hundreds of nonprofits over the years, it’s obvious to me that many of them still have a difficult time articulating exactly what it is they do. Regardless of what you call it — an elevator speech, a case for support, a reason for being — it’s missing. Take the example of a homeless shelter. Directors must ask themselves, “Are we housing the homeless? Are we doing workforce development? Or are we a key force for welfare reform?” Hint: Unless you’re a big social-service agency, the answer is not “all of the above.” Why? Because as small businesses, most nonprofits have to get realistic about their capacities and goals. They also have to do an environmental scan to see what other people are doing and where they best fit. Until they can articulate their true value as organizations, channel discussions are a moot point.
Who are our stakeholders, and what do they need from us?
In addition to defining organizational identities and determining relevance in a larger ecosystem, it’s also critically important to ask questions about the people your organization serves. This is both easier (feedback can be instantaneous and costs less to acquire) and harder (there is a lot of noise to decipher) in the Connected Age.