Dear Marketing Maven …
Back by popular demand, Marketing Maven is here to answer your questions about fundraising and other life challenges.
Dear Marketing Maven,
My donations are down, my heart is heavy and my job is on the line. Worse, I think I’m coming down with something. Paging Dr. Dollars!
— Sick in Syracuse
I don’t need a stethoscope to diagnose these ailments. You’re suffering from one or all of the three most common diseases in the nonprofit world. Sadly, they are at epidemic proportions. We’ve got to stop their spread!
No. 1: Field of Dreams Syndrome. Those who have this disease believe “if you build it, they will come.” By “they,” I mean a big team of generous donors. For example, if you have FODS, you think that if you build a Web site and stick a “Donate Now” button on it, donors will arrive and click. This disease also manifests itself as an assumption that uttering your mission statement will inspire people to give. If you find yourself saying, “If people only knew, they would … ” then you have FODS. Declaring your existence is not a fundraising campaign. It is a symptom of FODS.
The cure? You need to reach out to people and build relationships with them. Then maybe they’ll want to support you.
No. 2: It’s All About Usitis. Nonprofits suffering from this disease are easy to spot — their homepages, e-mails and all of their correspondence read like an “About Us” page. Sometimes, this ailment is called “Nonprofit Narcissism.” Your mission statement, the history of your organization and other related details should not be found everywhere and do not constitute a strong message.
The cure? Make it about your donors, not you. Why should they care? What can they accomplish? How have they changed the world with their support?
No. 3: Call to Inaction Disease. In order to generate donations and increase your donor base, you need to have a clear call to action. It’s not enough to state who you are, what you do and what’s new. You need to clearly state what you are asking and appeal to prospective donors to take that action. “Save the Earth” is not a call to action. Nor is, “Support us.”
The cure? Be specific. As in, “Click this button and give us $10 for a bed net so a child will be saved from malaria.”
Dear Marketing Maven,
Our image is not what I want, so I’m thinking of rebranding with a new logo. Thoughts?
— Making Over in Hanover
Dear Making Over,
Bad idea. Branding is not about logos; it’s about how people perceive you. That’s got a lot more to do with how you treat them, how you conduct your programs and how you communicate your achievements than it has to do with your logo. Don’t spend a cent on a new logo until you dig deeper into these aspects of your brand. Without that level of makeover, a new logo or color palette is about as effective as slapping lipstick on a pig. I don’t think it’s worth spending money on a logo change unless you conclude, after fixing everything else, that your logo is in direct violation of the brand you’ve built.
Dear Marketing Maven,
Why did you not open my last e-newsletter?
— Hurt in Halifax
I get about 20 e-mail newsletters a week. I read about two. I must have somehow overlooked yours. I’m sure it was worth a read — unlike the other 18. For what it’s worth, here are some thoughts on newsletters:
1. Maybe you don’t need one. People are inundated with newsletters. I’m not the exception — we all get too many. Yawn. Why not put your time and energy into something truly exceptional? Like the packet a friend just got from DonorsChoose to thank him for buying a carpet for a classroom. He got a picture of the kids on the carpet — along with the students’ little, handwritten notes and pictures. Wow. Not feasible, you say? How about simply sending out something useful to your audience? At Network for Good, we send out weekly free fundraising tips rather than a newsletter about us. Our nonprofits love it! If you’re an organization focused on diabetes, how about weekly tips for managing diabetes?
2. If you do an e-newsletter, don’t forget the “e.” You can’t just slap your print newsletter into a PDF, e-mail it and consider yourself the editor of an “e-newsletter.” Write to the medium. Online communications need to be shorter and formatted for the Web. People skim online. They don’t read. Don’t make them download a PDF and turn pages on the computer. Grab attention with photos, short text and good stories.
3. Make it about the donors and not you. Don’t manifest All About Usitis in your newsletter. Your newsletter should not be about how great you are. It should be about how great your donors are! Make your donors feel like the center of attention. People can’t resist reading about themselves — or about what they’ve accomplished.