What Makes You Stand Out?
Imitation is the “sincerest form of flattery,” or so says English writer Charles Caleb Colton.
Or maybe imitation is “not just the sincerest form of flattery — it's the sincerest form of learning,” if you would rather take the word of George Bernard Shaw, an Irish playwright.
I regularly hear from nonprofit organizations that want nothing less than “to be like charity: water.” Now I don’t question that that is a worthy goal. After all, the very fact that we want to imitate something means we are familiar with it. And there’s no denying that charity: water is well-known. It’s been included in a speech by President Barack Obama, been supported by celebrities and won awards for everything from its logo to its entrepreneurial thinking. And it’s certainly doing noble work at — according to its most recent 990 posted on GuideStar, it has a respectable overhead rate of 11.4 percent.
So again, wanting to imitate charity: water (or any other successful nonprofit, for that matter) is not a bad thing — as long as we are committed to understanding and imitating the essentials that make the organization successful, not just somehow wanting to “be” successful without doing the hard work that created that success to begin with.
All this leads me to a post by Chloe Gray on the Kissmetrics blog. She identifies nine “valuable marketing lessons” from charity: water. Somehow I missed this when it was posted a few months back, and if you did, too, I recommend reading the entire posting. But for those still looking for the fast track to success, here are a few of her points that really jumped out at me:
Identify your unique value proposition (UVP) and broadcast it to your audience
Marketers generally agree that a UVP has three features, phrased here using nonprofit terms:
- It shows me what is unique about the nonprofit from all the others doing what seems to me to be the same work.
- It tells me an important benefit I will receive if I donate.
- It is so powerful it makes me actually become a donor.
In discussing charity: water’s UVP, Gray writes, “But charity: water didn’t decide on this value proposition haphazardly. They hit on three major pain points for nonprofit donors.”
Pamela Barden is an independent fundraising consultant focused on direct response. You can read more of her fundraising columns here.