Big Debra!

Nov 30, 2022

‘Tis the season! And by that I mean, Little Debbie Christmas Tree Cake season! I mean have you had one? I’m sure if you looked at the ingredients list, it’s similar, if not identical, to one of the other Little Debbie snack cakes that they sell year-round. But I swear these taste better. It’s it the time of year? Maybe. Is it the Christmas spirit? Probably. Is it the adorable Christmas tree shape of every cake? Definitely!

Seriously though, can the shape of something make it taste better? I can’t say for sure but every holiday seems to adopt a shape, make things in said shape, and sell a boatload of whatever they made. Heck, when I lived in Texas you could find nearly everything ever made sold in the shape of Texas. I have literally never seen anything like it. Texas is VERY proud of their state and that shape of it, aren’t they Holly!?

So, at the first sighting of these delicious Christmas tree-shaped delights, we stock the pantry, enjoy them, and share them. And the only thing I ask is that when I’ve eaten my last one of the season that I know it’s my last one. I know they’re seasonal. I know they won’t last long. I know they’re going away. I can live with all of that. I just want to know when my last one is truly the last one, so I can truly enjoy it—because there was an incident.

See the source image

Apparently one year many snack food connoisseurs caught on as the cakes developed a near cult-like status. I mean, they even have a storefront on Amazon where you can buy them by the bundles and even the people of eBay have caught on! Now, they have Christmas Tree Cake dip, ice cream, and I hear you can even buy an inflatable for your over-the-top lawn décor! These days you can even find the cakes adorned on wrapping paper, scarves, hats, and pajamas! They are nary a secret any longer.

Thus, why one year, when I ate the last one in box, I asked the hubs to buy some more when he stopped at the store. Alas, they were sold out. Three stores later and he panicked. So, he and my son concocted a solution.  See Exhibit A.

Exhibit A: 

It was not the same. However, I had to laugh. He tried so hard! Even the hubs knew how important the shape was for maximum taste. And it’s the thought that counts, right?

All this to say, that there’s a lot we can learn about nonprofit marketing from Little Debbie Christmas Tree Cakes.

Left Brain Marketing Methods:  This is the time of year that many of you have already sent out your end-of year ask, so you’re using this time between your ask and your ask reminder to make plans for next year. One part of those plans that often goes unnoticed and undone is a stewardship audit. I’ll show you how we’ve done ours and hopefully you can be a better steward of your own resources as well.

Right Brain Marketing Moxie:  Clearly, I look forward to the return of the Little Debbie Christmas Tree Cakes, but this year Little Debbie wowed me even more than year’s past. Do you wow your donors? Do you even talk about what you do or could do to wow your donors. We do! Every week at our MMM (Monday Morning Meeting). Your mission is too important to show up in their mailbox as mediocre. Let me show you how!

It's time to make merry and make some money at the end of this awesome year. Let’s do this!
recruitastudent christmas money recruitastudent GIF

Left Brain Marketing Methods:  As a nonprofit, our donors rely on us to be good stewards of the resources they give us. We invest their donations wisely to grow them and get a social return on investment that changes someone’s life for the better. It’s vital work and I’m happy to be a part of it—and I know you are, too.

But we often forget about the ‘other’ resources that we have…supplies and marketing collateral from years gone by. I tend to believe that we need to take care of what we have now to be entrusted to take care of even more. That means knowing what you have, making sure it’s organized, and utilizing it well. That’s you practicing stewardship.

If you don’t know what you have, you might buy more. That’s a waste of money. You don’t do it on purpose—trust me, I know. You get baptized in busy, started running behind, and try to make the decision that will get things done quickly. Maybe that decision is a next-day delivery from Amazon—the delivery of an order that didn’t even need to take place, but you didn’t do an annual Stewardship Audit, so you didn't know!

Drying Schitts Creek GIF by CBC

You could do it alone or take advantage of this week with your team or volunteers. The last week of November is a 5th week! There are only a handful of months in the year that have these ah-mazing 5th weeks. This is where monthly meetings rarely exist, where you can catch up, and where you could get all-hands-on-deck to inventory exactly what you have.

This is all you need to do to conduct a quick Stewardship Audit:

  1. Go to your supply room and take an inventory of all you have to work with this next year. Make a list to denote the 1,005 C5 card envelopes, 500 large manilla envelopes, 10,057 donation envelopes, 5,000 pieces of cardstock, 250 pieces of letterhead, etc. Perhaps you never thought about doing a mailing with large manilla envelopes, but you already own them, so why not use them? It’s a great way to use what you have without buying more! Stewardship!

    Bonus:  Put a sample of each item you have a place that’s visible to you year-round. If you can easily see what you inventoried, then you won’t forget you have it, and you’ll use it!
  1. Go find all your marketing materials from years gone by and do an inventory of those items as well. Get that clipboard out and account for the 1,005 Ways to Give catalogs, 501 Giving Through Insurance flyers, 400 business cards, etc. You get the idea!

    season 6 episode 21 GIF by SpongeBob SquarePants
    Note: One year, we had these awesome Ways to Give Booklets—we called them CF101s. We had used them many years ago when we ordered in mass due to a grant we were given. But we hadn’t used them in several years because one of the pages was outdated. When we found them and realized how many there were and how awesome they were sans that one page, we had a brainstorm. We called our favorite local printing company and asked if they could simply reprint that one page for us. They could! So, we undid some staples and replaced that page so we could use those really nice pieces of marketing collateral once again. It felt great to be good stewards of that well done marketing piece that was once outdated but was pretty easily and inexpensively made new again.

When you know what you have you can utilize it well. That’s good stewardship. Practice that and you’ll reap abundant rewards!

Right Brain Marketing Moxie:  Oh. Em. Geeeeee! Did you guys see what Little Debbie has done? Not only do they have their normal Little Debbie Christmas Tree Cakes, but they now have a big box! Initially, the hubs bought said ‘big box’ last week thinking they contained more of the sugary confections. And I guess they did…in a way. Not more cakes, but more cake! They literally super-sized the Little Debbies. We fondly call them Big Debras!  Check out Exhibit B.

Exhibit B:

Holy cow, I could not have been more surprised when I came home from an 8-hour professional development workshop to find one of these Big Debras on the counter awaiting me when I got home. I’m pretty sure I squealed with glee!

Now, I’m fifty-something year old woman! Why was I so taken aback? Well, here’s the thing. They wowed me. Little Debbie wowed me. I was expecting the same old thing and they caught me off guard. They surprised me. They took the bar and raised it. They delighted the customer.

 Now at my office, we have two steadfast rules, so to speak:

  1. Let’s be easy to do business with: It should be so easy to give us money that they’d recommend us and want to give again and again and again.
  2. Let’s delight our customers: While it’s hard to always do this, we try. We learn from our mistakes, we make things right, and we try to catch them off guard, surprise them, raise the bar--delight the customer.

Exhibit C:  Rare sighting of Big Debra, aka, Will Ferrell--LOL!

Clearly, there are a million ideas for how you might delight your donors. I don’t know where you current marketing bar is, so I can’t say exactly what you need to do to raise it. But I do know this, you can look at your Stewardship Audit to help you decide.

Perhaps you, too, have 500 large manilla envelopes. So, do like Big Debra did and go large. Yes, maybe you could mail a donor piece in a C5 card-sized envelope or even a regular-sized business envelope, but that won’t surprise anyone. Use those large envelopes you have, craft your mailer in a super-sized format and win their attention when you’re competing with everything else in their mailbox this time of year.

Trust me, Big Debra wowed me! If you don’t normally go big when mailing to their home, do it! It’s good stewardship and an attention-getter—win/win!

can't stop winning GIF by The Opposition w/ Jordan Klepper

You know me, friend, I’m always looking for ways life can imitate our art--nonprofit marketing. The ideas are everywhere if you look for them. Maybe Little Debbie Christmas Tree cakes inspired you with their shape--your mailer could take on a shape of its own--rectangles are so last year. That would wow me!

It’s the giving season and there are a lot of exciting things to do and see and enjoy. Sometimes philanthropy doesn’t make the cut. But it can! You just need to grab their attention and remind them of your mission and these incredible words from Adam Grant:

is not a quest for appreciation.
It’s an act of care and contribution.

The point of giving is not to seek gratitude or receive recognition.
It’s to live by your principles.

True kindness isn’t motivated by how others will react.
It’s an expression of who you are.

Donors want to be reminded of this. You can do the reminding. But your direct mail must be attractive enough to get their attention in the mailbox, so they will open it and read your important message.

As my niece, Katie, once said…”Go big or go home…and well, you’re already home.”

Happy Holidays!

All My Best,

[email protected]
dawn brown creative, llc. 

P.S. Fundraising is hard, even though you make it look
oh-so easy! ♥

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