Yesterday I had the privilege of presenting to the Association of Fundraising Professionals on the topic of branding. While I had, had months to prepare as is par for the Richard Kaiser course of chaos…there were multiple last minute tweaks to the presentation. Even today as I look back, there are still things that I am kicking myself in the butt for. The thing that is most prevalent in my mind, is the same thing that I’ve been meaning to say to them for years. I have oftened dreamed of the oppertunity to stand up upon my soapbox and shout with all the air in my lungs “STOP ACTING LIKE NON-PROFITS”.
I never understood the concept of being broke all the time. Why weren’t they investing into marketing? Clearly, marketing makes companies grow, so therefore it would also benefit their organizations to create a level of awareness for themselves, drive contributions up, and help more people because of it…..so why weren’t they doing it?
It has bothered me for years and it really wasn’t until I was discussing the ins and outs of the presentation with my host that I realized that it’s not their fault. Most of those within these organizations didn’t come from the business world. Clearly they are driven by far more noble reasons than my selfish pursuit of world domination.
During the presentation, I brought up my experiences of venturing out into “the real world” post college and the trends of I noticed, which I referred to as the Madison Avenue VS. Silicon Valley paradigm. Several years ago, there weren’t marketing people at the tech shows, just as there weren’t tech nerds at the marketing events. And all the while, tech demands were being put onto the “Mad Men” and tech start ups were struggling to differentiate their products and get them to market. Both of these industries needed eachother, but they didn’t really know it.
As I reflect today, I am suddenly realizing the irony of this situation. I stood there and explained to them the importance of them reaching out and telling their story. I told them that they needed to have blogs on their websites, that they needed to be utilizing Facebook to share their message with younger demographics.
I repeated verbatim the 4ME marketing method developed by David Bowman. I explained that they all knew their message, I broke down the types of media into silos, and I stressed the importance of measurement to use their dollars as effectively as they could. I went into how even having all of those pieces working together and repeating it over and over and over and over and over and over….still wasn’t enough. They needed to have MEANING! Which I explained that all of them have this, but it is something that most for-profits struggle with.
At the beginning of the presentation I explained that branding IS NOT their logo, it is not their brand identity, it is not their color pallette…what it absolutely IS….is the gut reaction from people when they hear the name of an organization. Wal-mart = Corporate Bully; McDonalds = Cholesterol Kings; Apple = Innovative; Tom’s Shoes = AMAZING! Branding has so much more to do with feelings and emotions than on the product or service.
So all of that was said to get me to this point (I’m sorry, I’m kind of wordy sometimes):
I think that the next revolution that we need to get to is much the same as the Madison Avenue VS. Silicon Valley. Businesses need to have meaning, and non-profits need some business knowledge (and dollars)…..you need each other. This is something that we push our clients towards. We try to get them involved on boards, at events, et cetera. Perhaps, it is time that the non-profits started to do the outreach. Not just the big giants need to be involved, but also the local mom and pop shops.
For your next fashion show, why not use Price Stores for the men’s wear? Habitat why don’t you hit up Reqauth for some supplies or volunteers…then take photos so that they can upload them to their blog, FB, Twitter, et cetera?
The biggest thing is to utilize the power that you have. While you don’t have huge marketing budgets…a lot you have great lists of contacts….why not run a direct mail campaign with a local company “check out our FB or go to [insert company]‘s website for your chance to win [insert prize]“. It would make them look super good, you would both get some impressions, and most importantly….you’re using traditional media to drive traffic to online conversations, which means that you’re training people to start going to your website.
Alright, technically I’m on vacation right now, but my girlfriend was nice enough to let me have my laptop back for a minute to post this. So real quick final thought. If you want things to change at your non-profit, you need to do something about it:
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” +Dr. Seuss