Monthly Archives: November 2011

Using Exclusivity to Include More People

Does anyone remember the “Faceback” application from the movie “The Other Guys”? Basically it’s an iphone app that uses a picture of someone’s face to tell you what the back of their head looks like. It’s a joke and it’s meant to be ridiculous but if it were released exclusively for Macs it would be a huge success. That’s because Mac people are a different breed and they love things that are made just for them.

We all have things that are a good fit for us. The less people those things fit, the more specifically they are meant for us and the better they seem to fit. This is the whole sociological driving force behind subcultures and counterculture groups. We want to belong in a group not everyone belongs to because then we know that everyone in the group is a bit more like us than average. More exclusive means more like us.

The lesson here is not to be afraid of being specific about who fits in your cause or your group. You don’t have to cater to everyone or you will end up catering to no one at all.

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Messages That Increase Your Word of Mouth

I really hate forwarded emails. Strangely enough, I seem to attract people who really love them. Let’s just say I get a lot. Whether or not you enjoy getting forwards, there are a lot of things we can learn from forwards, re-tweets and Facebook sharing. We can learn what kinds of things are “forwardable.”

When you see the things that are passed on they usually have one or more of three qualities. The messages that are highly transferred are:

Entertaining – They are funny or provide a unique twist on a story that people enjoy hearing.

Interesting – They contain information that most people may not know and that people want to share with others. These messages have that “did you know…?” factor.

Intelligent – They contain information that people want to be associated with. It’s easy to re-tweet or forward information about a cause you care about so that people know you are part of something important, so give your listeners a message to pass along if they can’t find a way to voice it themselves.

By providing your current donors and followers with these types of messages you can increase word of mouth spread by giving your current donors and followers information that they want to pass along. A good story will always be retold.

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Make a Black Friday Purchase That Will Change Your Life!

It’s all over but the turkey sandwiches. Many of us spent the day with family yesterday, ate unconscionable amounts of pie and spent this early morning fighting like a Spanish soccer game over the one open checkout lane at Target. (For the record, I did not shop this morning) Before we stop being thankful, lets take a minute to remember that there are children all over the world who had no family to spend the day with. There are millions of people born in less fortunate circumstances who had absolutely nothing to eat yesterday. As we whip out our debit cards to make some big transactions today, let’s make at least one that counts. Buy someone clean water. Buy them something to eat. There are DVDs on sale but you can take that credit card swipe and purchase someone’s freedom. There are great organizations who make it simple to give towards a world changing cause. Today we can change the world. Happy shopping.

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Bringing Your Cause Close to People’s Hearts

People tend to care about what is closest to their lives. I’ve shared this morning on the storytelling page about something close to my life. I have three wonderful little sisters who were adopted and one of them creates a direct link between me and the issues in India. For most people, this issue doesn’t touch them directly. Story is the way we connect people to the causes and issues we care about.

Case in point, two of the largest organizations who are working to end poverty, abuse and child trafficking raised a combined total of 2.54 million dollars in 2010. That sounds like a family large amount until we contrast it with the fact that a very visible cancer research charity raised approximately 400 million the same year. Does that mean that preventing cancer is more important than preventing child slavery? Of course it doesn’t.  It also doesn’t mean that donors hold that opinion. It means that cancer is closer to their lives. Most of us know someone who has been directly affected by the disease.

The lesson to learn is that charities with a cause that is close to donors need to tell that story and help them see the value of what they are doing. If your cause is not so close to their lives – something international or something that people don’t talk about – you need to tell human stories that help them realize that you are doing good for people very much like themselves.

(On a side note, $1.2 million was brought in by one of the largest organizations fighting against depression and suicide. This is a domestic issue but one that most people don’t like to talk about.)

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Storytelling Contest

Don’t forget to visit our Contest page, read the rules and contribute to our community with a story of your own. You don’t have to be an official non-profit, just a person with a story and a passion for a good cause. We need as many stories as we can get and the winner of the contest (December’s featured story) will be selected on December 10th. You can submit your story  in the comments section of the contest page.

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3.5 Reasons That Word of Mouth Can Spread Your Ideas Further than You Can

Word of mouth is one of the best ways to spread a message or idea. Here are three and a half reasons why it’s in your best interest to encourage word of mouth.

Market Research

Organizations spend hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to learn what is important to their prospects so they can properly present new products. Word of mouth puts the distribution of your new idea or proposal into the hands of people who already know this information. They know what their friends value and they will automatically share information in the most relevant way.


It takes a lot for companies to build credibility- like pretending that Tommy Lee Jones uses their financial products- but your current community already has it. Wouldn’t you trust the recommendation of a friend more than a group you don’t know? Let your current partners spread the ideas around for you.


Essentially, word of mouth is free. There is no commission rate, although a good referral program is appropriate for some organizations.


This is the recent addition and possibly the most powerful advantage of word of mouth. When you send out a mailer to potential partners, you are interrupting them. Since they aren’t currently a part of your cause, it’s probably unsolicited. Your current members, on the other hand, have full permission to bring up a good cause in conversation without being perceived as SPAM.

Stay tuned for more information on how to get your partners talking about you.

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Why Storytelling is the Perfect Delivery System

Stories have been used for thousands of years to pass things from person to person and generation to generation. The reason they have been used so widely is because of what they convey. A good story can communicate information, create empathy and connectedness and relay emotions and feelings to the listener. When you share an idea in the form of a story you are delivering the total, intact package to the recipient rather than leaving it up to them to decide how to put it together.

A story is a little like a Christmas card. You can send information on the latest changes with a picture of what everyone looks like this year and the whole bundle comes with built in feelings and emotions. Remember, communication is never about the speaker. If the listener isn’t receiving the complete message, it’s being sent in the wrong way.

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True Community Support

Lots of non-profit organizations survive by moving from one event to another; fundraising dinners, auctions, telethons etc.. This is a lot like driving around with a very tiny gas tank. You spend all your time driving to the gas station. Meanwhile, all the time, effort and money spent putting on and organizing the events makes it hard for you to really go as far toward your goals.

Other organizations push people to donate. They beg people to join, to donate and to become sponsors. They use what Seth Godin calls “interruption marketing” to put themselves in front of enough people that they get enough donations to keep going. This is basically the same thing is as dragging a large number of gas cans with you to avoid stopping at the gas station. Because you have repeated donors and new donors all the time, you don’t have to keep stopping at that gas station. The problem is that it takes a huge amount of interruption to get enough attention from people who aren’t really interested. We’re trained to ignore the interruptions just to avoid going crazy in our ad saturated society. All that work is slowing us down.

Instead of stopping to gas up or dragging gas cans with you, how would you like those gas cans to be replaced with engines that have their own fuel supply and actually pull you towards your goal. The organization that can do this is the one who has a community of partners who are passionate about the cause and feel like a real part of what is happening.

The way to create this kind of community is actually fairly simple. First, get permission to contact the people who are interested in your cause. Tell real, honest and human stories that allow the importance of your message to be felt by your listeners. They will connect with your cause in a deep way and want to take initiative to make sure you succeed. You also need to make them feel like a valued part of the community by reminding them that they are a part of the team that can make this change a reality

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The Value of Information

We are living in the information age. Our information age is very similar to the renaissance and the reformation periods because thoughts and ideas are the most valued things in this age.  Some of the most highly paid and available jobs, for qualified individuals, are information systems and accounting. This just goes to show how much our social system values raw data. We as people, on the other hand, are still human and we need to carry our information in little packages called ideas, thoughts and ideologies. Information is the currency in our economy. Data floats around as numbers, just like money in the stock market or the national debt, but we as individuals need to carry our money around in little idea units like bills and coins.

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5 Keys to Making Your Non-Profit Not Suck

These five important rules will help keep you from falling into the advertising trap. Advertising sucks! You can love it or hate it…but we all hate it. The reason that people hate advertising is because it’s disruptive, unsolicited and designed to take advantage of us. Traditional methods of advertising – bus benches and TV commercials – are created to show us a product over and over until we start to think that we want it. They also show us happy, sexy people until I imagine that dish soap really has the power to make me both happy and sexy.

Advertising is pervasive too. Companies spend money on taller and taller billboards so we have to look at their product. State and city codes finally had to set limits on the height of billboards to ensure that we could continue to see the sun. Marketing is an art form and many marketers are brilliant, but it boils down to coercion. Do you see how this could be a poor way to spread your cause?

Unfortunately, there are many organizations who are using the advertisers play book to get their message in front of people. (When will we learn that it’s not safe to put things in front of people when they’re driving?) Below you will find five tips to avoiding an abrasive style that could alienate your potential partners.

Don’t Shame People

Ads do this by trying to make you feel bad for not having the newest and coolest. Non-Profits can do this by implying that people are less than human if they don’t donate. This may elicit one time donations but it will never build a community. Donors like these will avoid you in the future to avoid feeling guilty.

Don’t Interrupt

Dumping your message in front of uninterested people very rarely creates interested people. It will work from time to time but not nearly enough to justify the cost and effort that should have been spent on people who already care about what you have to say. How do you get a community in the first place, you ask? We’ll call it putting on the sheets before the blanket. If you are going to “blanket” by  sending out mailers, emails and cold calls, make sure you start with a very light, thin sheet. Allow people to express an interest in your cause before you layer them with the whole story. If someone opts out of receiving more info, please leave them be. Don’t spend your energy on people who have gone to the trouble of telling you they don’t care about the same things you do.

Do Be Transparent

When you show people one thing to sell them something else, it makes them (at least the wise ones) wonder what’s wrong with the real product. Since many people are already leery of charities, it’s absolutely critical that you be totally transparent. Make your budget and cause known to the public and mention that transparency before you ever ask for money. Who knows, you may just get some to visit your website just to check your math and win them over with your refreshing honesty.

Don’t Tell People They Need You

We all know that we need certain dating sites to find true love and a particular lemon-lime soda to quench our thirst. Ads have told us that we need them. Please don’t make this mistake with your partners. Now is not the time to build a weird, co-dependent  relationship with your donors. Make it perfectly clear that YOU need THEM and you’ll be building a community that’s more than happy to be the ones making a difference

Do Tell Stories

This is where you really have the potential to reach people. The key is to remember that people are people. We want to be human and relate and connect. Offering data and about a percentage or number of people that your cause is effecting is good but not nearly as moving as telling the story of one or two of those people. Stories are human. Your partners will be able to relate and gain a deeper understanding of how their support is impacting the lives of real people just like them.

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