58 posts categorized "author-Derrick Feldmann"

Creating Symbiosis Between Marketing and Advocacy

March 26, 2020

Stickers-yin-yang-sphereHow many times have you had to make a strategic decision designed to generate (or replace) critical support for your organization or cause? Maybe you lost the support of a key funder, or something happened in your issue area that required a decisive response.

Let's face it: even when things are calm, your organization is competing with dozens of other organizations and causes for public mindshare. Which is why I'm sure you've tried all sorts of traditional and digital methods designed to amplify your organization's message so that it stands out from all the "noise." 

Of course, generating any kind of action in our over-saturated media environment requires the efforts of two of your most critical teams: marketing and advocacy. It’s the job of marketing to acquire and recruit people to your cause, while advocacy works at the other end of the spectrum to activate those who are most likely to support — or are already involved at high levels with — your cause.

How do organizations achieve that happy state?

Successful cause leaders have discovered that the secret is to create a mutually beneficial relationship between your marketing and advocacy teams.

Finding the Sweet Spot

Often, when I sit down with cause leaders and ask about an upcoming event or campaign, I'm told (in so many words) that the organization is trying to expend as little of its limited resources as possible — and doing so in a siloed way. Sometimes, the marketing team will say, "Oh, it’s the advocacy team’s job to create passionate supporters and fight the good fight on the policy front," while the advocacy team members will say, "It's not our job to fill the room or make sure our message is getting to the right people. That’s marketing's job."

As anyone responsible for building a movement or a brand tied to a cause or issue knows, however, the sweet spot for any organization — the place where all its resources are used so as to create a whole greater than the sum of its parts — requires everyone, on every team, to work together.

Where am I going with this?

The challenge for a mission-driven organization — getting as many supporters as possible to amplify your cause or issue in the most effective and efficient way possible — underscores the need for two things:

  • advocacy teams must establish clear, measurable milestones and metrics that define "success" for any campaign or initiative; and
  • marketing teams must be given the resources and tools — including (and not least) digital tools — needed to achieve those milestones and goals.

Note: I did not number the above bullet points "1" and "2". Why, because it's not always obvious which comes first. Yes, you need supporters to help you achieve your milestones, and you need milestones that supporters can work toward, but is one more important than the other? In my opinion, the absence of clear, aspirational goals and milestones for both supporters and your marketing team invariably serves to dampen enthusiasm and depress growth. It's an approach, in my experience, that  leads to modest turnouts and response rates unlikely to keep you ahead of normal attrition rates.

Let’s look at the challenge in more detail.

Success for Marketing

I've seen many marketing campaigns that exceeded expectation in terms of bringing in new supporters. The most successful ones connected the public to a specific and achievable milestone. Working in conjunction with the advocacy and fundraising teams, marketing was given clear goals and the resources it needed to rally and connect target audiences to the cause. Those teams then applied their creative talents to designing campaigns that spoke compellingly to the importance of the issue and how individuals could become involved.

In many cases, resources also were made available for marketing teams to target supporters and potential supporters through paid media ads. More customized efforts often involved influencers in enlisting their followers to help the organization achieve its goals. To be clear, I'm not talking about a "we're going to eliminate [issue] in America by 2030” appeal; instead, the language used was specific to what supporters needed to feel and see as a clear victory in the moment — this month or this year.

Success for Advocacy

In my experience, advocacy teams tend to focus on a common benchmark of success: large numbers of supporters who can be leveraged to pressure/persuade stakeholders (legislators, policy makers, donors) to take action. Which means advocacy teams need their marketing colleagues to bring in as many supporters and potential supporters as they can.

Note, too, that while advocacy teams tend to value the most engaged supporters, successful organizations and causes do not neglect supporters who can get their family and friends to act, even when they’re not especially passionate about the cause. As advocacy teams design these "friends-and-family" appeals, marketing can plug calls to action into the appropriate messaging and collateral. And as advocacy teams make progress toward their goals, marketing can share the gains with supporters as evidence of the cause's popularity — and added incentive for further engagement.

Symbiosis Is the Key

A symbiotic relationship between marketing and advocacy is essential for movement building. Yes, it’s difficult; aligning and deploying resources from different departments or budgets requires consensus and cooperation. Frankly, the ability to identify and define meaningful metrics and milestones — those small victories related to an issue or cause that an organization can "own" — is daunting, especially where fear of a misstep exists.

But when It comes together, it's a beautiful thing to behold. Let me give you an example.

412 Food Rescue

412 Food Rescue collects perfectly good food from retailers, restaurants, caterers, and others and redistributes it to the food insecure. For that part, the organization's outreach/advocacy team recruits nonprofit partners such as housing authorities, daycare centers, churches, and community centers.

Working together, the outreach/advocacy and marketing teams have created an organization that runs almost exclusively on volunteer labor and enthusiasm. Volunteers download an app that tells them where and when surplus food is available, enabling them to respond immediately as to their availability to rescue and deliver the food directly to families in need. It’s a rewarding high-touch experience for everyone involved that lets marketing put volunteers, donors, and beneficiaries at the forefront of the organization's messaging.

When making strategic decisions about how to attract more supporters to your cause, be sure to look at the challenge holistically and with the longer term in mind. And remember, when marketing and advocacy are inspired and enabled by leadership to work together, even small wins tend to morph into bigger ones.

Headshot_derrick_feldmann_2015Derrick Feldmann (@derrickfeldmann) is the author of Social Movements for Good: How Companies and Causes Create Viral Change, the founder of the Millennial Impact Project, and lead researcher at Cause and Social Influence.

Nostalgia and Social Change

January 29, 2020

Time-machineRecently, I put my finger on a social sector trend that's been lodged in my brain but that I was having a hard time articulating: call it nostalgia.

Let me give you an example.

In many of the conversations I've had over the last year or two, people usually express a clear interest in changing how we engage with social issues and causes. They want to see Americans give more, volunteer more, vote more, or otherwise be more civically engaged, and they have certain expectations about what that looks like and how it should happen.

In many of these conversations, the person I’m speaking with often "benchmarks" the change they'd like to see, and that benchmark often references the past, as in "Derrick, Americans used to give more," or "Derrick, Americans used to know more about the way our political system works." They often cite statistics to back up their point and then will say, in so many words, "We need to return to…" and will launch into a narrative about a time when "we were less polarized as a country," when "people were more willing to help a stranger in need," when there was no "us and them, only we."

Now, it's not my job to argue with people and point out where they might need to rethink some of their ways of looking at things, and I'm not going to do that here.

Instead, I'll share what I often say at this point in those conversations:

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Brand Awareness and Your Nonprofit

December 19, 2019

BRAND-AWARENESSIn 2018, Smithsonian Magazine called March for Our Lives, a student-led mass demonstration against gun violence that took place In Washington, D.C., "the most powerful American youth movement in decades." In 2019, March for Our Lives and the movement it catalyzed could not be found among the top five movements of interest to young Americans in a nationally representative sample of eighteen- to thirty-year-olds (Influencing Young America to Act 2019).

The lesson? Never assume others know about your cause or the work you are trying to promote.

Why is awareness important?

As I often tell organizations, the challenge for cause and movement leaders is not to get constituents to regurgitate a brand statement that reinforces work they're already engaged in; it's to connect a cause to the "zeitgeist" in a way that makes it impossible to forget.

Put another way, the fundamental challenge for any cause leader is to help people understand why it's critical they pay attention to your issue — and to keep them paying attention.

The importance of awareness

It's often the case that our messaging doesn't bring new people to our organization or cause but instead builds loyalty among those who already support it. To bring new supporters to the cause, on the other hand, awareness of the issue is imperative.

Needless to say, the fact that the people with whom we work or who support our cause tend to be passionate about our issue can give us a false sense of its importance to the public. In addition, most of us live in filter bubbles that limit our information consumption to items we completely (or mostly) agree with and/or that are relevant to our work. Which is why we're often surprised when others don’t exhibit the same level of awareness of our issue as we think they should.

It makes sense, therefore, that awareness campaigns are at the top of most organizations' communications wish lists — and why so many organizations get "false positives" when they attempt to measure awareness of their issue or cause.

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New Report: What Influences Young Americans to Support Social Causes

October 25, 2019

Take-actionClimate change is the number-one issue of concern among young Americans. That's one of seven major findings in the new Influencing Young America to Act 2019 report my colleagues and I released earlier today.

The second report in the Cause and Social Influence initiative I lead examines how the oldest members of Generation Z and the youngest millennials ("young America"), those Americans between the ages of 18 and 30, are influenced by and influence others to take intentional action on social issues and analyzes how those actions coalesce to form a community of support for specific social movements.

Social Issues of Interest

In our research, we define a social issue as an existing situation recognized as being counter to a generally accepted social value that can be mitigated through people working together to deploy community resources to change the situation.

The top five issues of interest to the young America (and the percentage that selected them) are climate change (30 percent), civil rights/racial discrimination (25 percent), immigration (21 percent), healthcare reform (20 percent) and mental health/social services (16 percent).

Social Movements of Interest

In our research, we define a social movement as a group of people working together to support the interests of a community whose lives are affected by a specific issue; the group often is unable to address the issue and achieve a satisfactory resolution without the support of dedicated community activists and constituents.

The top five movements of interest to young America are #MeToo (26 percent), #BlackLivesMatter (26 percent), #AllLivesMatter (24 percent), #HumanRights (24 percent ) and #MedicareForAll (23 percent). (Note that although climate change was the number-one social issue, it did not appear among the top five movements.)

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Which Messages Will Get Out the Vote — A Generational Perspective

October 08, 2019

Vote_counts_830_0In a little over a year, America could see the unthinkable: the highest level of voter participation in living memory. And based on insights gleaned from recent research, voter messaging focused on issues and empowerment is likely to be key to the turnout.

Two factors are driving what could be a record turnout in 2020. First, while only about half of the U.S. voting-age population cast a ballot in the 2016 presidential election, turnout in 2018 was the highest for a midterm election in nearly a century. Second, as the 2020 election cycle draws closer, we're seeing a continuing generational shift in the electorate. As noted by the Pew Research Center earlier this year, boomers and older cohorts accounted for 7 in 10 eligible voters in 2000, but in 2020 will account for fewer than 3 in 10.

For the many groups trying to get out the vote as a way to create change in society, the type of messaging they use in their campaigns can make a critical difference in who wins and who loses at the ballot box.

As most of you know, however, messaging is more art than science.

For example, which of these approaches is likely to prove most effective in getting people off their couches and into the voting booth in 2020?

"We want change!" (March For Our Lives/)

"You must speak to be heard." (HeadCount)

"We Make Change Happen" (Hip Hop Caucus)

"Skip the lines. Vote early!" (various)

It's hard to say, because the variables that figure into any person's decision to vote are so numerous and fluid. Some people are motivated by a particular issue or issues, others by a passion (or dislike) for a particular candidate. People's changing circumstances — marriage, divorce, having children, losing a job, relocating for a job, etc. — also play a role.

To learn more about what drives people to vote, I led a new research study with the Ad Council, in partnership with Democracy Works, designed to:

  • uncover Americans' attitudes toward and perceptions of voting;
  • explore messages and narratives that have influenced those perceptions and attitudes in the past;
  • understand reactions to specific message frames among boomers, Gen Xers, millennials, and members of Gen Z;
  • determine which message frames, for each generational cohort, are likely to be most effective in driving voter participation; and
  • identify the most compelling messages.

We recently published our findings in a report, Driving Voter Turnout in 2020: Research on Effective Messaging Strategies for Each Generation. And while our research was limited to the five frames within which most current messaging around voting falls — issue, empowerment, identity, companionship, and ease — we consistently found empowerment to be a critical driver of voting across all generations.

People who feel they have the power, the right, and/or the authority to do something are exponentially more likely to exercise that power/right/authority than people who do not feel empowered. (Note: this is just as true for giving and volunteering as it is for voting.)

Below is a brief summary of our findings, as well as some recommendations for empowering your supporters via your messaging.

Voting is valued. Members of all generational cohorts generally are excited to vote and view it as a civic duty. To reinforce this belief and attitude, consider a messaging campaign that encourages people to feel good about voting and reminds them that their vote gives them the power to affect issues they care about.

Generational differences come into play with second-tier messaging. Regardless of generation, the majority of respondents were most inspired by issue-focused messaging and found it to be the most appealing, believable, relevant, and inspiring frame. However, generations differ in their responses to second-tier messaging (i.e., messaging that reinforces the big campaign slogan/call to action). Which means you need to think about how to craft your communications based on the preferences of the generation that is being targeted.

Messages of empowerment and identity are the most effective (after issue). Our surveys showed that once you've hooked your audience with issue-related messaging, all generations respond best to messages of empowerment and identity (though Gen Z responded less favorably to identity-related messaging than other cohorts). For example, targeting members of younger cohorts with positive, inspirational messages (and images) helps them think about the bigger picture — and reminds them that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. On the other hand, older generations are more likely to respond to straightforward messaging and acknowledgements of their already established identities as members of the voting public.

Although the majority of Gen Zers have not yet voted, they are just as excited about and engaged in voting activities as older generations — if not more so. Members of Gen Z view messages that speak to issues and empowerment as appealing, relevant, shareable, believable, and inspirational. (Think about campaigns such as March For Our Lives, which highlights the power of the individual.) Gen Z cares deeply, passionately, and openly about issues. Its members take their role in our democratic society seriously and believe that every person and vote counts. To inspire them, craft messages based on issue and empowerment frames.

Voting is essential to a well-functioning democracy. Today, with the political divide in the country as wide as it has been in half a century and the 2020 election looming, communicators have the power — and responsibility — to use all the tools at their disposal to influence voters, of all ages, to exercise their constitutionally-guaranteed right and make their voices heard at the polls.

We know that in order to influence how anyone views your issue, you first must influence how he or she views it in relation to themselves. The good news? You're starting with a significant advantage: today's younger generations already believe they can create change, whether or not institutions formally offer them the chance to do so.

Regardless of whether you're a marketer/communicator for a brand, a cause, or a candidate, your first and most important task is to empower your constituents to believe in that brand/cause/candidate. Help them feel like they're an important part of the social-change solution. And while you're at it, empower younger Americans to believe they hold the future in their hands.

Headshot_derrick_feldmann_2015Derrick Feldmann (@derrickfeldmann) is the author of Social Movements for Good: How Companies and Causes Create Viral Change, the founder of the Millennial Impact Project, and lead researcher at Cause and Social Influence.

Ten Years of Millennial Research: What I'd Do Differently

August 16, 2019

MillennialsIt's finally here — the final Millennial Impact Report, the culmination of a decade of research conducted by the Case Foundation and research teams I led into cause behaviors of the generation born between 1980 and 2000.

Any project of that magnitude — we interviewed more than 150,000 millennials, held hours and hours of focus groups, compiled and analyzed reams of data, and wrote volumes of narrative — begs the question: Would we do it all over again?

Absolutely — albeit with some tweaks based on what we've learned.

When we launched the project in 2008 — and over most of the next ten years — making assumptions about millennials seemed to be a favorite pastime of many of the people we interviewed or spoke to. We heard that millennials were lazy and more entitled than any  generation before them. They believed they deserved big salaries right out of college, and when reality hit they moved into their parents' basement (still the most enduring cliché about young Americans in this age group).

Put it all together and you got the biggest assumption of all: there was no way millennials would want to get actively involved in causes.

When we set out to learn about millennials, it wasn't to prove (or disprove) our own assumptions; it was to better understand their real motivations and behaviors. So we designed the research process to be an ongoing journey of discovery. I wouldn't change a thing about that.

But in looking back at our journey, there are some things I wish we had explored further:

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Drive Commitment and Change With 'Moments'

July 18, 2019

Ripple-effectOrganizations are always on the lookout for strategies that can help them engage supporters or build their movements. When I interact with an organization or cause that is seeking to build a constituency, I like to ask two questions:

  1. What’s the next milestone you are working toward?
  2. What are you doing right now to increase your supporter base in advance of that milestone? 

A few definitions here will be helpful:

  • A milestone is an incremental achievement that leads to a "moment" within a movement. The milestone Is achieved by the community working together.
  • A moment is a one-time (or short-term) convergence of actions, informal or organized, that is fueled by cultural, political, and/or social events leading to a surge of individual participation and self-organizing by supporters.
  • An issue or cause is an existing state of affairs (societal, environmental, political) recognized by society as contrary to its values but that can be improved by people working together and taking advantage of community resources.

As a leader of a mission-driven organization, your work is to break new ground for your issue or cause. You’re the visionary always on the lookout for that movement-altering moment when public awareness, supporter engagement, and a broader narrative of progress come together to create progress.

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Giving Voice to Your Supporters

June 03, 2019

Giving_voiceIn their desire to give voice to the vulnerable and underserved in society, most cause-driven organizations fail to include their supporters in the equation. By failing to do so, they are denying others a golden opportunity to see themselves in the same light.

A few years ago, an agency for pregnant women/healthy newborns came to us for help with a fundraising campaign. The agency's volunteers visit pregnant women in their homes to teach them about prenatal care and how to take care of a newborn. The agency's typical supporter is someone who wants to give babies a healthy, safe start in life.

At the same time, the agency was committed to a program focused on fathers-to-be. Nowhere in the program materials was there recognition or an acknowledgment of how invested the agency's volunteers were in giving babies a healthy, safe start in life or, indeed, any mention of the volunteers who were lending their time and experience to reassure and help pregnant women who often have no one they can turn to for help.

Not surprisingly, the overall campaign was not as successful as it could have been. Potential supporters who might have seen themselves as "people who think every baby deserves a chance at a healthy beginning" instead heard "we are an organization that wants to help men be good fathers." Both sentiments are laudable, but only one truly resonated with the agency’s most important constituency.

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3 Ways to Educate Donors About Movement Building

March 26, 2019

DownloadAt your most recent meeting with donors, you probably discussed the impact of your programs and perhaps even asked for commitments for the upcoming fiscal year. Did you also talk to them about funding the movement itself to ensure its future viability and success?

Donors typically give for two reasons: 1) to leverage gifts from other donors; and/or 2) in response to short-term needs. In both cases, the impact of their gifts plays out across two dimensions: helping bring others to the cause, and helping the people or cause served by your organization.

So while it's common for nonprofits to pitch donors in terms of the tangible difference their gifts will make for intended beneficiaries or the cause, organizations also need to learn how to demonstrate to donors the value of supporting the broader movement itself.

How to build a movement

Over the years I've been involved in movement building, clients often have shared with me the names of donors they believe are open to taking a broader view of the movement. On occasion, clients even have asked me to speak with certain individuals to gauge their interest in funding movement-building activities and to share any thoughts I might have about the approach they should take in subsequent conversations with those donors.

Below, I share some of what I've learned from my interactions with donors in the belief it will give you something new you can use in your conversations with donors to educate them about the importance of movement building.

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My Way, Your Way, and the Highway

February 14, 2019

My way orWorking on a cause or leading a movement today means managing a team of people whose ages, backgrounds, work styles, expertise levels, and personality traits can be all over the place. And the backgrounds of your donors and stakeholders can be just as varied. Sooner or later, it raises the question: Are you prepared to manage the inevitable (though often hidden) tension that arises between young and old, new and experienced, impetuous and measured?

I've heard lots of stories in which a seasoned nonprofit veteran sees a new recruit to the cause begin to get attention for her ideas and becomes disgruntled, even resentful, while the new hire just thinks the more experienced colleague is being unreasonable and stubborn. Meanwhile, the tension between them mounts, with each wishing the other would just go away.

The same kind of tension can occur between organizations, creating a monumental stumbling block to significant, sustainable change as donors and supporters sort themselves into opposing camps.

That's more than a shame. According to the World Economic Forum's Global Risks Report 2019, "The world faced a growing number of complex and interconnected challenges in 2018. From climate change and slowing global growth to economic inequality, we will struggle if we do not work together in the face of these simultaneous challenges."

In other words, if we expect to make any progress on the urgent challenges at hand, it's imperative that we all do what we can to minimize this kind of tension.

I know, it sounds difficult. But it's not; it just requires a shift in mindset. You could, for example:

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Be Bold, Take Risks

January 10, 2019

Take_the_leapEvery year for the last decade or so, organizations have shared their ideas for engaging millennials with me and then asked for my feedback. Thinking about it over the holidays, I realized I received about the same number of approaches in 2018 as in previous years.

I've been studying millennial cause engagement with the Case Foundation for most of that time and have shared all kinds of research findings and insights through the Millennial Impact Project and the newer Cause and Social Influence initiative. Organizations seek me out for advice about their own particular situation, especially as it relates to what is now the largest generation in America. Typically, they do so for one of the following reasons:

  1. they have not been able to cultivate a younger donor base;
  2. their past success is being challenged by new ways of looking at their issue, new technologies, or both;
  3. their donor engagement levels have plateaued; and/or
  4. their revenues have been trending downward and the future looks grim.

After a decade of fielding such approaches, I can usually sniff out whether an organization has what it takes to change — and by that, I mean the kind of change needed not only to attract a new and younger audience, but to engage any person, regardless of age, with an interest in their cause.

Change is hard. It demands a willingness on the part of leadership and staff to leave the status quo behind and push in the direction of a new guiding vision. In other words, it requires people to be fearless.

This kind of approach to change is detailed beautifully by Jean Case in her new book, Be Fearless: 5 Principles for a Life of Breakthroughs and Purpose.

In her book, Jean describes a set of five principles that can be used by any individual or organization to become more relevant and valued in today's fast-changing world. The five principles are:

1. Make a Big Bet. To build a movement or drive real change, organizations (or individuals) need to step outside their comfort zone and make an audacious bet on something they ordinarily would reject as too ambitious or difficult. And the risks associated with a big bet, says Jean, can be mitigated, if organizations are willing to learn and course correct along the way.

If you want to target a younger demographic, go ahead and do it in a big but measurable way that will teach you something. A/B testing one line in an email campaign to a purchased list is a small bet involving little risk and with little potential for changing anything. Building a canvassing team to collect emails at, say, a popular music festival and then tracking engagement after the event is over is a bigger bet involving more time and expense for an unknown return. Creating a mobile unit to travel to locales around the country where younger people tend to live, work, and play and then identifying influencers, micro-influencers, and potential supporters is a much bigger, more expensive bet and thus a much bigger risk. But it's big bets like that which lead to new discoveries and have the potential to propel your cause or movement forward.

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How We Actually Show Our Support

November 16, 2018

ActNowbuttonRecently, after a conference panel discussion, a young woman approached me as I was leaving the stage with a request I hear often from nonprofit professionals:

"Derrick, it would be great if you could show your support by tweeting and liking what we're doing."

Now, I happened to know she was part of a good cause and genuinely cared about the people her organization was serving. But the request was a little unsettling. Did she want me to show my support for her organization? Or for the people the organization was trying to help?

Let's examine the distinction.

We can show support for a cause in any number of ways. We can quietly make a donation through Facebook or an organization's website, create a scholarship in honor of a favorite teacher, or go big and make a lead gift for a building that will have our name on it. We can sign a petition, write our representatives in Congress, share an image or post on social media, or boycott a company or product. We can even walk, run, or bike for a cause or grow a mustache for a month.

All of these are tangible displays of how we, as an individual, feel about an issue — or, more accurately, about the people affected by that issue.

What these actions are not are displays of how we feel about an organization.

Someone who wears a pink hat or shaves her head is not doing it to say, "OMG, this organization is so great!" By putting her beliefs and personal experience out there for others to see, she is standing up and proclaiming, unequivocally, "I care, and I want everyone to know I care. And I hope you'll care, too."

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The Importance of Listening for and Sharing Stories

October 10, 2018

Share_your_story­When leaders of today's most vibrant social movements gather in a ballroom for a day to share advice and lessons learned, we ought to listen — and not just because as leaders of nonprofits competing for people's attention, dollars, and time, we should welcome opportunities to learn as much as we can about how best to apply our efforts to bring about change.

In September, leaders from the Ad Council, the Born This Way Foundation, Young Invincibles, the Transgender Law Center, the MBK Alliance, the National Geographic Society, and other organizations and causes gathered in Washington, D.C., at the Influence Nation Summit to talk about the tactics they've used in the past to move large numbers of people to take action.

Running through their remarks were two critical points that many nonprofits struggle to operationalize: 1) Listening is more important than talking; and 2) Sharing authentic stories with a compelling message is at the heart of every successful movement.

Listening is more important than talking

If you're a professional fundraiser, you've heard the admonition to focus on your donors and establish them as the "hero" of the narratives you share with supporters and stakeholders. You've been told to use "you" in your messaging instead of "we," to evoke donors' empathy by appealing to their emotions, and to assure them that whatever your organization has accomplished is due to their generosity and passion for the cause.

Imogen Napper, one of the speakers at the Influence Nation Summit, is a marine biologist and a National Geographic Sky Ocean Rescue Scholar who is focused on ridding the oceans of plastic, including plastic fibers found in clothing. Without listening to the online conversation around the topic, however, you might think Napper supports a ban on synthetic fibers in apparel. Not so. As she told attendees at the summit, "Plastic is a fantastic material as it is so versatile....Seventy percent of clothes are made of plastic. Therefore, it would be difficult and often expensive to completely avoid it." What people want instead, she said, is access to information that allows them to make informed decisions about the clothing they buy.

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Are You Too Predictable?

May 28, 2018

Yes-n-maybeEarlier this month, I got the kind of call that so many donors get from the organizations they support.

"Derrick, great to hear your voice. It's been a while. I'd like to sit down and share an update on our work, get your thoughts on our progress, and see if you’d be interested in talking about ongoing support."

This from an organization that calls me once a year. Like clockwork. The first week of May — just in time for the organization's fiscal-year-end close.

I know what you're thinking. Shame on them for calling just once a year. But actually, the decision to call annually was at my request. Before I made the request, they would send someone to visit with me over coffee two or three times a year, and we would always have the same conversation:

  • How is my family
  • How is work, and have I traveled to any new destinations lately
  • Quick update on his or her family
  • Quick update on what's new at the organization
  • Update on my last gift and how my dollars were used
  • Earnest request for a gift renewal

Not that there's anything wrong with that kind of exchange or the topics we covered. It's just that it's the same each and every time. As in: predictable. 

It's not really a surprise, because the organization itself is stable, efficient, and reliable. I expect a certain level of impact no matter what I do or how much I give. If I give X, I'll get Y 99 percent of the time.

Which is wonderful for donors who are looking to back sure things — and donors who want their donations to result in predictable programmatic impact. I honor and wholeheartedly support that position. I want that, too.

But the problem with being a predictable organization is that you may wind up being taken for granted. And let's face it, not all donors are looking for predictable. Some donors are attracted to new, different, and out-of-the-box. It's the way they're wired.

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What Is That Noise?

April 19, 2018

NoiseHow many times have you been startled by a noise and thought: What in the world?

You try to ignore it, but it won't stop, so you decide to take action. You go looking for the source, find and disable it, and sigh as you walk back to your chair.

I know the feeling. It's a feeling of exasperation, the feeling you get when someone or something absolutely insists you pay attention, whether you want to or not.

It's the feeling many of us have after we've been exposed to nonprofit marketing.

Hey, I get it. Marketing is noise to some and the stuff of life for others. It can inspire, persuade, and make us fall in love. It can move us to action or dissuade us from taking a stand. It can be something we welcome into our world — or something that intrudes on us when we least expect it.

The question you need to ask is: Is our marketing something our supporters want, or is it the noise in the background they wish would stop. Based on my experience, there's too much of the latter happening in our space.

Let me explain.

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