The Nonprofit Complexity Conundrum
Many nonprofit organizations launch to address a specific and urgent problem. Over time, that compelling problem and the solution put forth define the organization and its brand.
For decades, CARE shipped CARE packages to help poor families around the globe. Rescue missions offered soup, soap and salvation to hungry, hurting, homeless people. World Vision provided sponsored children with food, shelter, and access to medical care and education.
But it doesn't stop there. As the program people of nonprofits dig in to the challenge, they usually discover that the problem is more complex than originally thought — as is a real, lasting solution.
CARE learned that any real solution to poverty in the developing world hinged on empowering women. Rescue missions began offering full rehabilitation programs, GED high-school equivalency and job training. World Vision saw child sponsorship alone as simplistic and designed a sophisticated and effective program for sustainable community development.
In fact, I suggest that the programmatic side of most, if not all, nonprofits is becoming inexorably more and more complex.
It stands to reason that nonprofits want their brands to reflect the increasing complexity of their programs. In fact, they're rightly proud if it! They're not providing a Band-Aid; they're designing complex programs to make lasting differences. Hence most branding is becoming inexorably more and more complex.
So while program and branding grow in complexity, what about direct-response fundraising messages and offers? Must they get more and more complex to mirror program and brand? That's the temptation. And that's the direction sometimes given by those who are more in touch with (and proud of) the program side than experts in the direct-response fundraising side of the equation.
The rub is that clear, simple, urgent, emotional offers generate better results in direct-response fundraising than complex, complicated, long-term offers.