Wednesday, February 5, 2014

BIG’s Blog: The Beatles 50 Years On … and Us

Did any of you catch the CBS special last week, Celebrating The Beatles on Ed Sullivan 50 Years Later? GenXers and the younger baby boomers were influenced by The Beatles, but those born between 1946 and 1954 “lived” The Beatles from the start!

The show was a nice nostalgic walk down memory lane and had today’s stars performing The Beatles’ music, but when Paul sang “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and the band segued into Ringo singing “With A Little Help From My Friends,” as another blogger named Bob Lefsetz put it … “everything was right with the world.” If you were alive and old enough to be aware of what was happening in February of 1964, you knew that, fifty years ago, our country was transformed in one night.

Musical instrument shops sold out of electric guitars and drum sets as wannabe Beatle bands popped up in garages across America. Men’s stores had to start stocking new fashions that looked like what The Beatles wore, and every guy wanted to be the first to sport “Beatle boots.” Of course, the barbers’ business fell off until they could figure out how to cut long hair, but the few who couldn’t or wouldn’t learn soon went out of business.

The Beatles were different; it was a different look, a different sound, and we were ready for it.

So where did these guys come from? They grew up in different working class neighborhoods in Liverpool, England, a fairly poor industrial and shipping city. Most had lost their mothers. When you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose. It’s like the new nonprofit organizations popping up all around you. They don’t have money for direct mail so they are learning how to use the cheap Web to get their messages out and raise support. And they are figuring it out every day and growing. When you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose.

You’d think that today’s fundraising leaders who are seeing their donations declining … especially their direct mail programs … would look at the Web and these small start-up charities and would try to figure out what they are doing and how this might work for them. I guess they are too busy either watching their numbers decline or calling up their old supporters, yet again, to donate one more time to save their quarter or year.

They have apparently forgotten that their goal is to raise increasing amounts of revenue to keep their organizations growing, not to be just direct mail fundraisers!

Celebrating The Beatles on Ed Sullivan 50 Years Later was pure nostalgia and fun, but it had none of that lightning in a bottle feeling that we who watched it live felt when we first saw and heard The Beatles. They blew the music of the sixties wide open. They built on American rock and roll, the folk culture, and the civil rights movement to empower a whole generation . . . and the baby boomers have never been the same since.

Today’s baby boomer and genX fundraising leaders had better start doing something different or they will soon be like those barbers in the 1960s, many of whom went out of business.

Today’s remaining Beatles, Paul and Ringo, are living legends that people still want to see. Why? Because 50+ years ago they took a different road … their road! Sure, the young lads from Liverpool studied the likes of Elvis, Buddy Holly, and Little Richard as their foundation, but their sound was their own.

Today’s fundraisers need to take a page from the lads from Liverpool. Learn all you can about what works and doesn’t work on the Internet, then start changing things while you have a backstop of the older generations still supporting you.

You want a goal?

Shake things up.

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