Monday, October 28, 2013

BIG’s Blog: A Best Kept Secret

Is your organization a best-kept secret?

It could be without you even knowing it. A couple of years ago, when I was still doing in-person, on-site consulting, I had a client that was a religious community in a relatively smallish setting. As I always do with new clients, I arrived in the town early so I could just walk around and ask people in the town if they knew of the organization I was working with.

In my unscientific survey, this group did better than most. Five out of ten people I talked to had heard of them. Most of the time it’s two, one or none . . . and the group I mentioned had been in the town for over 50 years.

As I said, my survey was unscientific, but the point remains: this group, even in their small town, was a best-kept secret . . . and that is not a compliment.

This organization, like so many others, has been doing events and direct mail appeals for years, but has tended to stay within the confines of what they viewed their natural constituency. And since they had been doing direct mail appeals across the country, they saw no need to raise their profile locally. And the truth is, it probably made some sense in its time and place.

Today, however, we have the Internet, and that pretty much changes our paradigm of how we think about connecting with potential supporters and the world. Plus, our old methodologies of raising supporters aren’t working as well.

The old model is called “vertical” marketing. In vertical marketing, we controlled the whole process. This process starts at the top with advertising ads or direct mail, and we push out our message through media. It’s our plan, our money, and we are in control of the process.
But with the Internet, there is a new model called “horizontal” marketing. It is all about creating a remarkable mission or ministry and story, and then setting it up to spread person-to-person. But, unlike the old model, you don’t have any control. The interactions are created by passionate outside people who carry your message, tell your story, and talk about your organization. This model also has very low costs.
Aaaah, but since it has very low costs, will it work and will it work for charities?

Here is an example of it already working.

In 2006 (seven years ago) Charity: Water didn’t exist. They were founded in 2007. In 2012 they raised $33 million dollars.

Charity: Water has never sent one piece of direct mail.

If you Google Charity: Water, you get over 20 million hits. Over 20 million!

Charity: Water does only horizontal marketing.   

Okay, now two tough questions for you: 1) Google your organization and see how many hits you get. How much older are you than Charity: Water? 2) How much money did you raise last year without direct mail and bequests? Was it anywhere near $33 million dollars?

A mere six years ago Charity: Water was a best-kept secret. But not today.

How much money were you raising six years ago? What are you raising today?

Is your organization STILL a best kept secret?

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