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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