Simple marketing ideas work


I recently tried a simple marketing concept at work.  A well-regarded faculty member was celebrating his 60th birthday and he didn’t want his friends, relatives or former students to send him presents or wish him well on his birthday.

Instead, he wanted them to donate to a scholarship endowment to help students who faced hardships during their externships.

I talked to the professor and came up with a simple idea. Why don’t we highlight the professor’s age and encourage everyone to donate a minimum of $60 on his 60th birthday? Next, we focused on identifying the best medium to disseminate his message. The professor, a great Peanuts fan, had an office adorned with Schulz and his characters. We created a simple, yet humorous e-blast featuring a Peanuts character and a message from the Professor urging well-wishers to donate $60 to the scholarship.

We planned two dates to disseminate the e-blast. The first was send a week before his 60th and the other hit in-boxes three days before his birthday. The idea worked and over 50 individuals gave varying amounts to the endowment.

This effort generated many well-intentioned conversations. The Professor felt proud and said he couldn’t have got a better 60th birthday present than the response from his friends, former students and relatives. We made a simple iphone thank you video and emailed it to all who donated and they also received a hand written note.

Sometimes, simple marketing ideas generate larger conversations. They create deeper impact than complex, metrics driven content marketing.

A Fresh Look at Fundraising


generosity networkSo…how much did you ask? How did the visit go? This is a common question that fundraisers are asked after they meet prospects.

In a new book, “The generosity network: New transformational tools for successful fundraising,” authors Jennifer McCrea and Jeffrey Walker take a fresh look at fundraising. The authors show that “creating a sense of meaning and personal fulfillment is at the heart of great fundraising.”

They oppose fundraising as a transaction-based relationship where the fundraiser meets the donor solely to secure a financial gift. The book argues that “fundraising is a vehicle for transformation- personal, organizational, social, even global.”

Narrating her early experience as a fundraiser in New York, Jennifer says every ask that she made focusing solely on securing a financial gift yielded a negative response.  She soon realized that fundraising was not just about the numbers. Instead, it is a “shared commitment as two people sit down and have a deep conversation about their lives.” Giving is emotional, personal, makes people happy and is social.

The authors oppose fact-based appeals used commonly in fundraising. They argue that  fundraisers should focus on why people want “meaning in their lives” and  not dwell on data-driven case statements. “Another slide show won’t work and the most important aspect of fundraising is to create human connections.”

They are also against canned elevator pitches, a tactic  commonly used by non-profits. Instead, they encourage non-profits to focus on authentic storytelling. “Do not inundate your audiences with data, instead tell them stories.”

The book urges non-profits to stop selling ideas to people and encourages them to  give donors “opportunities to connect with causes.” It offers several nuggets, including one where the authors ask fundraisers to consider donors as their peers, irrespective of their social or financial standing. Treat them as peers and move from the “salesmanship model to enabling people to contribute to a dream.”

Authentic storytelling gets reinforced throughout the book and it has abundant tips on how to make the ask. At the heart of every ask is a “powerful story of the self, the power of us and now.” A good read.