Posts tagged donors

Can flashy marketing hold a candle to candlelight marketing?

We're no longer cavemen, but still, "fire good!"

We're no cavemen, but still, "fire good!"

Yes; I made up the term “candlelight marketing.”

I needed something to represent marketing that, while enlightening and illuminating, avoids the newest bright and flashy gimmicks and trends. Jeff Brooks penned a post on the Donor Power Blog today highlighting some evidence that as individuals age, they’re less susceptible to trends and newfangled fancy-schmancies as the brain’s reward system is “dialed down.” The inspiration for Brook’s post comes from the Neuromarketing blog in the post “Marketing to the Senior Brain.” Brooks writes:

That’s why older people are less susceptible to fads and shiny new things — and instead tend to prefer trusted, well-known things. (Less gullible is another way to look at it.)

In the nonprofit industry, a significant portion – often the majority – of our donors are seniors. Understanding the psychology of this demographic is crucial to developing communication strategies that will have the most impact.  We should focus on integrity, honesty, and familiarity more than trendy designs or flashy displays. Not that we should be boring or stuck in a rut. Far from it! We ALL crave new experiences that escape the status quo.

How does this translate to events? For starters, you should probably cancel that order of LED-lighted ice cubes if your core group of attendees are any older than 30 – scratch that, let’s say older than 13. Put more effort into the story-telling and the quality of the experience. By all means, make use of helpful technology, like projecting a short documentary that brings your organization’s mission to life. But you don’t need to expend valuable resources to party like it’s 2050 when your guests might be just as happy partying like it’s 2008, or 1968, or 1948…

This is not to say you shouldn’t embrace new ideas and techniques, like using online social media and Web 2.0. Nor should you ignore the next generation and what attracts them. Like I said, it’s all about understanding your audience and communicating in a relevant way.

Moral of the story: invest in quality and don’t shirk traditional techniques just because they’re traditional. There’s a reason candlelight stuck around long after the invention of the lightbulb. We all like it!

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It’s almost here…

My thesis deadline and defense.

Getting a job!



Moving back to Portland (granted I can find an apartment).

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking: Probably nothing, because the traffic on this blog has dwindled to next to nothing so chances are nobody’s reading this. Sad. But I PROMISE I will be back (but not with a vengeance) come June. Think of all the exciting things I’ll have to share! Yes, shamelessly plugging my future posts…

(my mind is whirling with thoughts)

Anyway, what’s happening now is I’m editing the first draft of my thesis to submit to my committee on Tuesday. I’m sitting at about 70 or 80 pages – much to my own surprise. I’ve uncovered some really remarkable stuff and I wish I could sit down with each one of you event planner/pr pros/students/anyone who will listen because that’s easier than trying to write it all. Wait, I am writing it all. But, like I said, it’s 70-80 pages and nobody wants to read that. But when I have a second I will post on young professional donors, donor motivations, benefits of special events for nonprofits, relationship management and special events, and so on. Basically, it’s about kick-ass strategies to make friends with your publics/audiences/guests/donors/communities and develop mutually beneficial relationships rather than just asking for money or telling people what they should think, feel, and do. It’s better in the long-term and much more fun.

So I hope the little teaser piqued your interest. Stand by for more.

P.S. The job search is going well; I’ve got my first big interview in 2 days. Thrilling!

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Are nonprofit-donor relationships just a click away?


Last week’s BusinessWeekonline article ‘Click Here to Save Darfur’ by Catherine Holahan explains how online social networking sites like Facebook or Myspace have enabled charity and activist groups to quickly rally support and turn it into real dollars and feet on the street.

For example, Camp Darfur in Second Life(a virtual reality world where users live through an avatar) allows visitors to tour a simulated refugee camp to educate them about the conflict in Sudan. It also provides visitors with ways to get more involved in raising awareness about the Darfur genocide.

My question is, how do online social networks translate to the fundraising and marketing world? Are the online relationships initiated through sites like Facebook or Second Life replacing traditional relationships, or are they filling a new niche? Personally, I  believe that the proliferation of such online opportunities does not signal a decline in demand for real-world interaction with brands (be they nonprofit organizations, politicians, activist groups, or corporations). The ease of bringing charitable or other causes to the Internet also impacts the public’s perception of their credibility. When any Joe Schmoe with a domain name can set up a fraudulent charity, it’s hard to judge the authenticity of a legit organization. It’s like the e-mail from the Nigerian Prince, but more sophisticated.

This is why I think it’s still paramount for ‘brands’ to cultivate personal relationships with their publics – whether they are donors, customers, or voters – on a physical level. But they shouldn’t ignore the popularity and success of online tools. Instead, I think the answer lies in forming a strategy that integrates online social networking with real-life, personal encounters. In cases where this is impossible, due to monetary or physical constraints, then Web 2.0 seems to provide an excellent solution. Either way, we’re talking about a means to an end – if the desired outcome can be best achieved purely through online interaction, then that’s what the organization should do.

In the end, for the same reason that brick and mortar stores have not been demolished by online retailers like Amazon, I doubt that online social networking will replace all traditional relationship management strategies. But, in the same way that online shopping has changed consumer’s habits, this new opportunity will certainly influence the next generation of donors.

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Branding with emotion: A human encounter

I just checked out Seth Godin’s recent post on “Fear, hope, and love: the three marketing levers” on his blog, Seth Godin’s Blog, and it got me thinking. My aspirations as an event planner go well beyond wanting to manage caterers and table arrangements. I want to work strategically with brands (nonprofits are brands too) to create opportunities for touchpoints – experiences that allow relationships to form between the brand and the individual.

Call it what you will: marketing, branding, relationship management, development, etc. Regardless of title, it’s a moment of tangible interaction between the organization and the individual. This encounter can end up painfully impersonal – think bland slideshow presentations, cookie-cutter decor, a cavalier attitude, etc. Or it can be a remarkably HUMAN moment. What makes such an event human? I would venture that it has something to do with distinctive personality and emotional connection. Godin explains that brands succeed in persuading consumers to take action via one of these three basic emotions: fear, hope, and love.

“Every successful marketer (including politicians) takes advantage of at least one of these basic needs.

Forbes Magazine, for example, is for people who hope to make more money.

Rudy Giuliani was the fear candidate. He tried to turn fear into love, but failed.

Few products or services succeed out of love. People are too selfish for an emotion that selfless, most of the time.”

He goes on to explain that sometimes love arises from hope, usually only after a brand has sufficiently endeared itself to the consumer. Tom Belford for The Agitator responded in his post “Hope & Love…Yeah, Right!” by writing about the “Super Seven” emotional drivers, identified as:


Either way, we can agree that emotion is paramount in appealing to consumers and creating meaningful relationships with them. The long-term success of fundraising depends entirely on the quality of relationships built between organizations and donors. Events, as I see it, are prime opportunities to introduce brands in an emotionally relevant way, by creating physical, memorable, multi-faceted, and PERSONAL interactions between two entities.

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Web 2.0 and Nonprofits


Jeff Brooks, creative director at Merkle, wrote in his Donor Power Blog recently about the “conversation” aspect of Web 2.0 as it relates to the world of nonprofits. He explained:

“It’s only a matter of time before nonprofits start getting the same treatment of being rated, commented on, and critiqued in public by donors…If you’re ready for this, it’ll be good. If not, ouch.”

Being relatively new to the concept of Web 2.0, I’m receptive to any good advice on how to realize the potential of the ever-evolving Internet in public relations and fundraising. At first, I was fairly reluctant to get into the world of blogging and social media. To be perfectly honest, I tend to be somewhat trend-averse when it comes to technology – I’m probably the only person left on the planet without an iPod. I shocked the AT&T salesman when I explained that I find texting less convenient than a real-time phone call. I own stationary – and I use it.

Needless to say, a year ago when my mother inquired as to what this “blogging” thing was and if I was doing it, I laughed. But, here I am. Why? Because despite my initial reluctance, I can no longer ignore the immense potential of online social media any more than I can pretend it’s a fleeting trend. If I can’t beat ’em, join ’em!

That said, back to Web 2.0 and nonprofits. Brooks is spot on in his observation about the inevitable conversation between donors and their recipients. Unfortunately, it seems that a lot of nonprofits, especially the smaller ones, suffer from lack of technical expertise, time, money, staff, or some combination of all of the above. In my personal experience, groups that I have worked with are often short-staffed, thinly-stretched, and struggling just to make ends meet and accomplish the mission. But this shouldn’t be an excuse to resist new technology. I would argue that making an effort to join the online conversation and interact on a more personal level with donors would benefit nonprofits and multiply their efforts many times over. Donors care about where their money goes; some also want a say (or the perception of say) about where their contribution goes. By engaging with donors, listening to their desires, and responding to their concerns, nonprofits can reap the rewards of Web 2.0. And for free! A fabulous opportunity for nonprofits, regardless of size, locale, budget, or net-saaviness. Hell, if I can do it, anyone can.  

Side note: I was happy to see that Amor Ministries, which organizes mission trips in Mexico to build homes for Mexican families, keeps up a blog on their website. The blog is written by organization founder Scott Congdon. This year marks my 8th annual trip to Mexico with Amor, so I’m happy to see this great nonprofit engaging in online social media.

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