3 Deadly Fundraising Words You Probably Don't Even Realize You're Saying
The background of automobile cup holders is instructive for fundraisers.
Drivers today assume every car will come with plenty of convenient places to put their coffee. But not that long ago, the Big Three car makers actually, briefly, fought the idea.
In the beginning there was no need for cup holders. With standard transmissions and no safety devices, driving a car required the use of both hands, both feet, and full attention. Over the decades, cars changed dramatically in terms of cosmetics, but most basic standards and practices for their interiors ossified.
When drive-in movies and automatic transmissions came along, car makers tweaked what they had, putting shallow indentations in the glove box door. They didn't work worth a hoot, but they were easy to design, inexpensive to add on, and made customers feel like the companies were paying attention to them.
The first real built-in cup holders showed up in Japanese imports when they began to invade the market. Customers loved them. The Big Three didn't. For such a small convenience, they required expensive retrofitting of console and door designs. Plus, they were an affront to the idea of American Innovation, because someone else thought of them first.
So, out of inertia and self-interest, car makers convinced themselves that cup holders were an inconsequential nuisance. They sniffed and harrumphed and, inevitably, muttered three of the deadliest words in marketing:
"Oh, people won't buy a car just because it has a cup holder."
But, of course, they did. Detroit was dragged into a new, consumer-driven world and has struggled ever since to overcome the image that American cars follow instead of lead. That they are always too little, too late.
"Oh, people won't … " Just the smug sound of it should set off alarm bells. "Oh, people won't" is never about the "people." It's about the speaker, who:
- Uses it as an excuse for not changing to fit the evolving needs and wants of customers, prospects, and donors.
- Assumes, based on gut feeling rather than research, that he has deep insight into the murky and complex motivations of his customers.
- Wants to take strategic and creative shortcuts buy assuming that nearly all of the "people" will behave the same way. Even worse that they will behave the way he imagines he would behave in the same circumstance.
Think how often you hear those three words. They skitter along the surface of the brain and roll off the tongue so easily you hardly even notice you've rejected a challenging idea out of hand.
- "Oh, people won't give to label packages anymore."
- "Oh, people won't notice if we spell their name wrong."
- "Oh, people won't mind if it takes a couple of extra clicks to get to the donation page."
It's impossible to know how many missed opportunities lie in the graveyard of good ideas because of those three words. They shut down discussion so early in the process, they never get recognized as the culprit.
Willis Turner believes great writing has the power to change minds, save lives, and make people want to dance and sing. Willis is the creative director at Huntsinger & Jeffer. He worked as a lead writer and creative director in the traditional advertising world for more than 15 years before making the switch to fundraising 20 years ago. In his work with nonprofit organizations and associations, he has written thousands of appeals, renewals and acquisition communications for every medium. He creates direct-response campaigns, and collateral communications materials that get attention, tell powerful stories and persuade people to take action or make a donation.