Friday, June 28, 2013

BIG’s Blog: When it makes NO sense…pay attention

In September of 2006, Facebook opened up to anyone 13 years of age and older with a valid email address. That was less than seven years ago and way before they hit one billion members.

In June of 2007, Apple released the iPhone. That was six years and millions of iPhone sales ago.

In April of 2010, Apple released its first iPad tablet. That was slightly over three years and millions of iPad sales ago, and before the iPad single-handedly began to bring an end to the era of the PC.

Each of these products and/or services . . . all less than seven years old . . . heralded the beginning of a “new thing.” And, as people always do, they look at the new in comparison to something else that they already understand. This isn’t a new phenomenon, and has been going on with new technology for a long time (i. e. the horseless carriage for the automobile).

But we are almost always exactly wrong about what the new thing really is, and what it means for our life. I remember thinking that the iPad was just the iPhone without the phone. Exactly wrong!

Seth Godin made a point recently in one of his blogs that was dead on when he wrote, “When your marketplace embraces a ‘new’ that makes no sense to you, it’s essential you understand the point of view that's leading people to embrace this new idea.”

Nobody is saying you have to jump on the bandwagon, but you probably need to understand why others are touched, inspired, or are adopting the new idea.

Have you missed something?

For nonprofit fundraising organizations, marketing is fundamentally changing. Marketing used to revolve around, focus on, and be measured by transactions. Increasingly today, however, marketing for nonprofit fundraisers is quickly revolving around, focused on, and being measured by the number and depth of relationships they develop.

This is a “new thing”or a “new idea”that is made possible by the combination of societal shifts in technology (specifically the Internet) and attitudes towards philanthropy.

If you personally don’t believe it or just don’t get it, I understand. Remember what I initially thought about the iPad?

. . . but you need to pay attention
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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

BIG’s Blog: Selling?

Seth Godin, the famous marketing guru, says, “Let’s be clear – the product is more than ever marketing.”

Yes, but…

But what?

The “what” is that marketing has fundamentally changed for fundraisers.

Take a hundred fundraisers and line them up. Ask them how many are marketing their mission. I’ll bet 90% tell you they are selling their mission. Marketing = Selling. Hey…when they ask for money, they are validating the “ask” by selling their mission. And for those doing direct mail…it’s all about selling the mission.  

Is there anything wrong with that? Not if you are “addressing” the WWII and Depression era cohorts. You are speaking their language, they expect to be sold.

But starting with the Baby Boomers and younger generational cohorts, they speak a different language.

The Boomers and younger generations don’t want to be sold. And “marketing your mission by selling your mission” is called selling to the Boomers.

So let’s revisit. How many fundraisers out of 100 are “selling” their mission? Still 90%? Probably closer to 95%.

So what are the other 5% doing?

Good question…

The other 5% are spending 95% of their time building a network of people who are interested in what their organization “does.” Interested doesn’t necessarily equate to money . . . it equates to a passion for the mission.

Do you see the difference?

At first you think it’s a subtle difference, but then you read what I am REALLY saying and it is not a subtle difference . . . it is a profoundly different approach.

The people who are involved in the mission are sharing their passion. That is not about selling…it’s about sharing and relating. They NEVER ask for money. And for the people who connect, don’t talk to them about donations, talk to them about what they are passionate about.

Pleading for funds is dependent on “selling” your mission.

Sharing information about what you are doing and letting people decide to engage in conversations about the work that you do IS NOT SELLING…. but it is marketing.

Beginning with the Baby Boomers, sharing information is good . . . selling is bad.

Look at your donor file.  Are 60%+ of your donor file Boomers?

If not…you’re probably still selling.

For generating the revenue your organization will need in the next 20 years, you probably don’t want to be selling.
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Monday, June 24, 2013

BIG’s Blog: At least they tried!

Who is Ron Johnson? He’s the ill-fated CEO hired by J.C. Penny a year and a half ago to resurrect the storied retailer that had grown a bit dowdy and whose profits had been sinking.

Ron Johnson was the former Apple retail store guru who built Apple stores into a phenomenon. J.C. Penny’s board of directors hired him away from Apple, and Johnson arrived with a new vision and strategy and set about executing them. But after 18 months, when the profits hadn’t turned around, the board fired him.  

There will no doubt be books written about Johnson’s tenure at J. C. Penney from both the board’s perspective as well as Johnson’s . . . and though there were clear examples of each side’s failures, at least Penny’s board tried a new approach.

I give the board a grade of “A” for trying with their hiring of Johnson, but unfortunately I give them an “F” for failing to stand by their man and the strategy that they signed off on.

Change is hard, but once you choose a strategy and a change agent, you have to support that strategy and your change agent(s).  

The nonprofit fundraising sector is facing Change of it’s own. Fundraisers are seeing their current model of fundraising decline right before their eyes. What do fundraisers and J.C. Penny have in common? They are both using the same business models they were using 80 years ago, even though the world has moved digital. To be sure, both J. C. Penny and most fundraisers have adopted digital tools…but there is no real change in strategic direction incorporating those new digital tools…what has changed?

Fundraising boards and the leadership of communities are struggling and they have to make changes . . . but they also have to learn about and support a change in direction. Leadership is a contact sport.

In our firm, with our new online program (that indeed does offer a new model of fundraising), we will not allow organizations to participate unless they have representatives of their boards or leadership on the team. We have learned that board and leadership representatives learning the same thing as their fundraising management team gives greater support to the hard work of change. They begin all on the same page.

Maybe if a few J. C. Penny board members had worked closer with Ron Johnson, J.C. Penny would have turned the corner by now.

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Friday, June 21, 2013

BIG’s Blog: The First HUGE Generational Wealth Shift

It seems every article you read about wealth transfer focuses on the Baby Boomers, since the leading edge of the Boomers are already 67 years old this year.

But, as I have pointed out numerous times in multiple posts, the big wealth transfer “going on today” is from the Boomers’ parents (Depression and WWII generational cohorts) to the Boomers.

A recent Chronicle of Philanthropy article focused just on the state of Minnesota, where nonprofit leaders have gauged the wealth transfer from the Baby Boomer parents at $48 billion . . . and that is just Minnesota!

Today, these older Depression and WWII cohorts represent upwards of 85% of your donor base. Clearly, you are failing to reach the Boomer and younger generations, and you need to address that growing problem. But for today – don’t forget to “ask” your current base of donors to remember your organization in their estate planning.

Every single communication you send out to your supporters who are the Depression and WWII generations needs to have information about legacy bequests.

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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

BIG’s Blog: Supporters need more than stories

We’ve got a whole sub-industry within the fundraising sector that does nothing but focus on every aspect of “telling a story.” They shout, “tell your story,” “spread your story,” “give your story more emotion,” etc. etc.


I was thinking about that when I read an article in HBR’s Tip of the Day. It said, “Customers Need More Than Products.”

I thought to myself, what do they mean “customers need more than products?”

The author explained that the best salespeople see a sale as a consultation, not a transaction. A good salesperson helps customers see issues they hadn’t considered, point out opportunities they’ve missed, and refer them elsewhere when necessary.

“Wait a minute,” I thought to myself, “what the author is really saying is that the best salesperson inherently understands it’s about helping the customer, which develops a relationship of trust. They use their time with the customer to share information and to help them.

But help the customer do what? Buy something?

No, the best form of selling isn’t to get your customer to understand your product better but to get to know your customer better so you can understand their needs, whether your product (or mission) are ultimately right for their needs (or philanthropic desires).

Do you know how rare that is from a salesperson?

Do you know how rare that is from a fundraising organization?

Great products and great stories are terrific to have . . . but focusing on learning more about the customer’s needs (the potential supporter’s desires and interests) ultimately gives you a better chance that more people will become buyers . . . or support your mission.

Isn’t that the way you want to be treated?
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Monday, June 17, 2013

BIG’s Blog: Get their attention…the money will follow

When you get my attention . . . give me a “Wow.”

A year ago I had not heard of Charity Water. They do 100% of their fundraising online.  I then watched a video of their founder Scott Harrison, and after watching it I couldn’t stop talking about them for a month.

Most long-established faith-based organizations are “best kept” secrets. You keep communicating with the same “Holy Huddle.” Nothing the matter with keeping in touch with old friends, but maybe it’s time to join the world and get in the game . . . and for more than just financial support.

Do you love your organization and community? If you believe you are valuable, tell the world.

Today the biggest compliment you can get is attention. People are overwhelmed with messages, but they are looking for real. They are looking for authenticity.

But you have to deliver.

Don’t ask people for their time until you’re ready to deliver.

I had never heard of Scott Harrison of Charity Water before I saw his video. He’s a smart guy. He knew he needed funding for Charity Water, so instead of reinventing the wheel, he studied how fundraising was being done in the charitable sector and concluded that the current fundraising model was broken and in decline. So he created his own, 100% online.

Then he told his story. He endeared himself to us because he showed us his human side.

Your current mode of fundraising is declining too.

You need to start over. I know starting over is tough. Even Apple had to start over. But they started…

You’ve got to believe in yourself and your organization.

Fundraising is about relationships and emotion. 

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Friday, June 14, 2013

BIG’s Blog: Relationship First ???

Marketing makes sense if you are selling a product, but does it work if you are building a relationship? 

Track with me here.

The rise of "search," as in a Google search, has shifted the power of information. In a transaction, the seller in a particular geography now has to compete with sellers from everywhere because of the Internet. Consumers can now price or compare any product or service from anywhere, which means the power of information has shifted to the buyer.

So marketing the features, benefits, ease of availability, or price might make sense. This applies to services as well as products.

But does marketing make sense in relationships? 

Does a boy "market" himself to a girl? Does a girl market herself to a boy? I'm not sure certain "features, benefits, or ease of availability" fit the criteria in what is essentially developing a relationship. A girl might think she needs to "market" her best characteristics to a boy, or a boy might think he needs to "market" his best attributes to a girl . . . but in human relationships, all those attributes and characteristics are subjective. 

Information, though, is important in developing a relationship. In fact, whether in a product, service, or relationship...information is always good. It helps us decide. 

But marketing has a sales aspect to it. There is certainly nothing wrong with selling the features and benefits of your product or service over the competition . . . but does competition really apply to relationships (TV shows like the Bachelor not withstanding)?

Still with me?

So, now let's talk about charitable organizations and fundraising. Are you selling your organization?  Developing relationships? Or are you doing both? 

Today, most charitable organizations would say they are doing both. And they would point to the fact that, although they are asking for financial support, along the way they are developing relationships. And that is true.

But instead of the focus being on "asking for support" with the goal being a transaction, what if the primary focus was relationship development? At some point you still ask for support, and financial support is only one form of support . . . but relationship development remains the number one focus.

Many others as well as myself would contend this was really NOT POSSIBLE before the Internet . . . but it is now.

So then, are you more comfortable continuing with your transaction-focused fundraising business model that was developed 80+ years ago, or are you willing to shift to a Relationship First model? You still ask for support, but only after you have developed a relationship. It is a fundamentally different approach to Development and, frankly, one that most charitable organizations are more comfortable with...not to mention the Baby Boomer, Gen-X and Millennial generational cohorts that you are trying to reach. 
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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

BIG’s Blog: Does Facebook Work?

The headline screams, “Two Out of Three Marketers Doubt Facebook Ad Effectiveness.”
According to a blog by Eric Sass in MediaPoint, “Marketers think Facebook is an important platform, but they also doubt the effectiveness of the efforts on the world’s largest social network.” Sass quotes from a survey by Social Media Examiner.
The report says 87% of marketers believe their top priority is figuring out how to measure ROI (Return on Investment) for social media, yet 97% of these marketing pros said that participating in social media marketing is important for their business.
We are back to the quote from John Wannamaker, the famous department store magnate from the early 20th century. Wannamaker famously said, “Half of my advertising doesn’t work, I just don’t know which half.”
Only this is worse! 97% are participating in social media because they say it’s important, but 87% are trying to figure out how to measure its value.
Confused yet? Me too.
If you are a marketer in the commercial world, that means you are attempting to sell a product or service. If your paradigm is advertising as it has been practiced for the last 80+ years, you pay for advertising, which brings in sales. Then you quantify the sales revenue against the advertising expenditure. Pretty simple.
But Facebook, and by extension all other social media, is not advertising media in the traditional sense. So attempting to quantify a new thing against old metrics is probably a fool’s errand.
The dynamics of social media are not particularly fertile soil for traditional marketing, yet that’s what most marketers tend to do. I am scrolling through my Facebook updates from friends and family and suddenly there is Blackberry. I don’t remember friending Blackberry. I don’t know anyone at Blackberry, and it certainly seems out of place between pictures of my friends’ children’s weddings or outings. Yet, there it is.
Blackberry isn’t the only one. But worse, I don’t know that I have ever actually read one of these ads on Facebook. Just the wrong context to think about a cellphone or any other product…unless… it is related to something one of my friends just mentioned. Then the ad better be the next thing I look at . . . and even then, it might not get much attention from me if it’s too obviously sales-y. Why? Because it’s obvious I am being sold.
Have you noticed the shift in our thinking as we have been empowered by the Internet? Information Good… Selling Bad.
This leads me back to your nonprofit organization getting noticed on Facebook. First of all, charities aren’t selling anything, but they are sharing their mission. Still, placing a post on Facebook??? Out of context still looks like selling.
But…having social friends and family talk about your organization or your mission or upcoming event…that’s different. It is in context and the messengers are your passionate advocates.
I’ve said this many times: I don’t know how commercial marketers can make social media work in an ROI for them. I’m not saying it never will, I just don’t see it the way it is practiced today.
But for nonprofit organizations using passionate supporters to carry the message…hello?? This is one dynamic vehicle to spread your message and reputation, but are you set up to do that with your passionate supporters? And who are your passionate supporters? Does this idea even work within the context of how you think about marketing and fundraising today in your organization? I’m guessing probably not. The Internet and social media are new things. The old rules of advertising don’t apply to this new thing.
You probably need a new strategy built for this new media and new online world.
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Monday, June 10, 2013

BIG’s Blog: One day I’ll celebrate

Hopefully by now, not only are you reading my blog, but following others as well. It used to be that to keep up on the latest, we watched the New York Times or other non-fiction bestseller lists or heard books touted by talking heads on either radio or television. There are still those channels, but the media that breaks new ideas the fastest are blogs.
Because blogs provide the medium to work out ideas. If you want your ideas fully developed and fully birthed, that is what books are for. It shouldn’t surprise you that most authors, journalists, and anyone else who is publishing are also blogging. And, of course, blogging isn’t a one-way street. People are encouraged to respond to blogs. Many times the author’s thought direction is altered by cogent arguments from blog readers. It’s a conversation.
One blog I follow is Seth Godin’s. Seth writes a daily blog. Yep, 365 days a year. That is Herculanean. Are they all great? Of course not, but the continuity of ideas and insights is always there, which keeps me coming back, waiting for the real home runs that pop off the page.
Seth just published his 5,000th post. That's over 13 ½ years of blogs going back to 2000. Think how much the world has changed. Along the way, through Seth Godin’s blog, I have been introduced to new things, ideas, people, books, and organizations.
Seth Godin has infused himself into my life just as I am attempting to infuse myself into yours. We all gain by this medium of blogs.
Of course, I blog partly to demonstrate that you or people in your organization or community should be blogging as well.
Reading my blogs in the morning is a part of my daily routine as much as brushing my hair. My brain is activated by short and pithy thoughts or insights. A good blog shouldn’t be more than 400 words.
Seth Godin gets it. He understands how powerful this medium has become to move and change people. But he doesn’t pound people over the head. He ends his 5,000th blog with the line, “Drip, drip, drip, are you soaked yet?”
One day I’ll celebrate not my 5,000th blog, but your first.
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