Charity and Chocolate

Dec 07, 2022

There’s at least one entertaining conversation at the Community Foundation of Grant County every day…at least one! Some are more memorable than others and some simply can’t be repeated. One year, I recall taking a random poll to see who had candy dishes in their homes while they were growing up. I guess I was a little surprised that everyone didn’t do this! My mom ALWAYS had a dish of candy sitting out for all to enjoy. In fact, I clearly remember a green glass bowl filled with M & M’s, malted milk balls, Raisinettes, peanut clusters, peppermints and the like. The bowl was such a mainstay of our home growing up that all our friends knew to help themselves. In fact, my brother-in-law grabbed many a handful of candy from that dish while he was dating my sister. So much so that my mom gave the green candy dish to him as a gift when he retired from the military many years ago. It’s his inheritance from the good old days. (And, by the way, he loved it!)  That little green dish sure did make everyone feel welcome when they entered our home. See the source image

Maybe that’s one reason we have The Candy Bar at the Community Foundation. It makes people feel welcome. The smile that comes over people when they first spot it. The joy that exudes when they walk out the door with a little sweet treat. Well, it’s just priceless. Young and old have enjoyed The Candy Bar.  

As I was reflecting on Big Debras from my blog last week and thinking about the sweet treats we enjoy during the holidays, I just knew there were some lessons to be learned that apply to marketing methods and marketing moxie. Of course, there are--they're everywhere! 

Left Brain Marketing Methods:  As most left brainers do, we know and organize a lot of information. In the community foundation world, we have lots of terms and acronyms that don’t mean a whole lot to a layperson (also known as a donor), and we have to remember that. Let’s learn a bit from a holiday classic, The Whitman’s Sampler.

Right Brain Marketing Moxie:  I learn from multiple mediums and this week I was listening to a podcast featuring astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. He taught me something that made me think about our office candy dish, The Candy Bar, which reminded me of what kind of content our donors need from us when we communicate with them.

So, feel free to grab a chocolate bon-bon, a handful of M & M’s, or a candy cane and let’s do this!

Season 2 Eating GIF by Paramount+

Left Brain Marketing Methods:  One thing I love about working at a nonprofit is that we are such a sharing industry. I get emails every week asking me to share an idea, a form, a policy, or a process. And I’m always happy to share because one day I might need them to return the favor.

Besides, I genuinely believe in the Abundance Mentality. The Abundance Mentality is the belief that there’s plenty for everyone. It's a leadership skill related to productivity. In my opinion, I believe if you give freely, you will be blessed plentifully as well. It’s the positive version of what goes around comes around.

But what we often forget in the community foundation world is that we are complicated. We do a ton of stuff from asset development to grantmaking to community leadership and everything in between. We invest in Wall Street and Main Street. We’ve worked with donors from age 5 to age 103. We accept cash and complicated estates. And that's just scratching the surface! hip hop television GIF by WE tv

Because of all this complexity, we have our own language. Trust me, not everyone ‘gets’ what an endowment is or why it’s important to a community. Even more people haven’t been educated about a Give It Twice Trust or how to give through insurance. Are you smelling what I’m stepping in? You know a lot of complicated information in the inner workings of a Foundation and oftentimes you forget how much you know.

That’s where The Whitman’s Sampler comes in. A box of chocolates is a nice host gift to bring to a party. And they are plentiful around the holidays. But the absolute best thing about a Whitman’s Sampler is the legend!

You know it’s true. Maybe you hate coconut. It’s hard to look at the shapes and sizes of each chocolate morsel and decipher where the coconut bite lives in the delectable tray of sweets. No worries, Whitman's has your back!

In the cheap knock-off chocolate samplers there is no legend. You’ve seen them, you have to take a bite to learn the flavor and that leads to some very unpleasant surprises.

Sad Over It GIF by Laff

This logic can be applied to you and your donors, too. Just because you’ve created a direct mail donor appeal, doesn’t mean you were clear in your ask. Yes, perhaps you DID ask them to give. But were you clear about what they could give?

While it might not be required for every mailer, it is a good idea to provide a Donation Legend to your donors, so they’ll see the variety of giving options available. We just sent one out recently that identified methods of giving with a brief explanation. Here is a sample:

Without a Giving Legend of some sort, your donors might simply give you a cash donation. While there’s nothing wrong with that, certainly gifts of stock or insurance could be much more lucrative. If you don’t communicate to them all the options available, they’ll resort to the easiest way to give when they could have given so much more.

So, follow the model of The Whitman’s Sampler and provide a key about ways to give. When you have options, you can pick the one that you really love the best—that goes for charity and chocolate.

Right Brain Marketing Moxie:  When it comes to being creative in our biz, we often feel like we can’t because philanthropy is a serious business. We take our philanthropy like we take our coffee, very seriously.

However, when I was listening to a story told by Neil deGrasse Tyson on the Armchair Expert podcast this week, he made a brilliant point about why it might be important to be creative in our delivery--and he's an astrophysicist, a creative one!

He told a story of ABC coming to the planetarium he worked at to grab the outlook on a hot story many years ago. Tyson was an unknown at the time, but he had the ED title, so they were there to hear from the expert about his explanation of the Doppler shift and how it’s measured. To make it meaningful he explained that the stars do a little dance as the planet goes around them. To really illustrate his point, he did a bit of a jig himself with his hands and his hips. It was a big hit! Neil Degrasse Tyson GIF by Nuts + Bolts

In the excitement of being on National News for the first time he called everyone he knew to watch him educate to the world about the Doppler shift. And what did they air? His hip-swirling motions mimicking the starts dancing around the planet.

So, what’s the lesson to be learned here? Tyson said, “Even though they were visiting me in my habitat, they want something that works in their habitat.” Boom!

We know our habitats well. We live in the philanthropy culture. We swim in the acronyms. We can be intimidating. So, having The Candy Bar breaks down a few barriers when donors come to our habitat. It’s nice when we know Marc’s favorite candy is a Peppermint Pattie and that Mr. and Ms. Smith drive in each week to make their donation in person just so Mr. Smith can come in and grab a sweet for his sweetie.

But we also must remember that our direct mail is entering their habitat. So, it doesn’t matter what work we do or how complicated it really is, when we send it to them, to their home, we better be sending something that works in their habitat, not ours.

 york GIF

And then it dawned on me (pun intended), that’s why we always had a candy dish at home. It’s nice to welcome people into your home to celebrate the holidays. But it’s also just nice to welcome people into your home even with there’s nothing particular to celebrate. It needs to be a non-threatening space. The candy dish was just a small way to make people feel welcomed, loved, appreciated, and special…every day of the year. Life can be hard, folks. And, as my friend Jack says, "I’ve never met anyone that has been encouraged too much".

When it comes to donors, it’s not really about a Candy Bar, but it is about raising the bar. Be thoughtful. Be intentional. Be authentic. Be the legend when it comes to charity and chocolate.

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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