⛳Marketing Mulligans⛳

Apr 13, 2022

Pinterest lies. Well, maybe not all the time, but it definitely does lie. You know how famous people get verified on Twitter with the little green check mark ✔?  I wish they had that for Pinterest so that people could tell you if the ideas they were sharing, and people were imitating, really worked. It would certainly save people a lot of time and money.

And so it goes, just like every sign you’ve ever seen that starts with ‘No’, there’s a story behind it. And, yes, I did have a huge Pinterest fail. While it made an interesting Easter memory, Pinterest isn’t my go-to for idea execution these days—I use more reliable sources.

I should preface this upcoming picture with the fact that I’m not a great in the kitchen. My hubs is a great cook though, so it all works out. All that to say, on most holidays I’m asked to bring the cups and ice. But on one specific Easter I offered to bring the rolls—because of these adorable little bunny rabbit rolls that I saw on Pinterest. They literally said, buy a bag of frozen yeast rolls, thaw, make a few snips to form ears, and bake. Seriously, could it be any easier? (Please say that like Chandler Bing!) Alas, check out what they were supposed to look like versus what we got, served, and ate. Please learn from my mistake. Don’t serve origami at Easter. Since then, I’m back to cups and ice and an occasional chocolate bunny with an ear lopped off, so you can use it as a wine glass.

By now, you are probably asking yourselves, ‘What does an evil-looking Easter Bunny roll have to do with nonprofit marketing? So glad you asked. Whether it’s personally or professionally, your resources are limited. You only have so much money and so much time. And I really hate wasting either. That’s one reason I started this blog. I’ve learned a lot from my peers across the county and the books I read. Perhaps some of what I’ve learned can be passed along to you, save your resources to further your mission, and keep you from burning out too soon. Because of my experience in teaching, I do that through left brain and right brain pedagogy like this:

Left Brain Marketing Methods: We’ve talked about this before, but it still holds true…you can’t be everything to everyone. The nonprofit path is a noble one but it’s not necessarily an easy one. A manageable marketing plan in which logical left brain decision-making rules will help pave your fundraising path in a way that your journey won’t be as treacherous. You can plan your work and work your plan—just like you do with your financial budget.

Right Brain Marketing Moxie: The key here is easy, you simply don’t want to be mediocre. As John Wooden once said, Being average means you are as close to the bottom as you are to the top.’ Ouch! Your donors deserve better and, frankly, so do the people that your mission serves. As the old adage goes, if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, did it make a sound? A corollary is, if you are dramatically changing the quality of life of your clients, and donors don’t bother to open your mail, then is it as if it never happened? What can you do to cut through the cacophony of distractions in the lives of your donors and get noticed? I have some ideas!

Ready to try something new? Let's do this!

Left Brain Marketing Methods: Time and time again, I’m surprised to hear that nonprofit marketers don’t have a plan. Or worse, they have an asset development plan that’s on a shelf somewhere but was never activated. Just like any strategic plan, if it doesn’t have assignments and dates set to it, it likely won’t happen. Yet, the amount of change you can make in the world is dependent on your communication with, and activation of, donors. I get it. I was a woman without a plan in 2013. And, honestly, if I hadn’t developed a system for our team that was thoughtful, strategic, and extremely left brained, I don’t think I’d still be working in the nonprofit space today. The Monday morning stress of figuring it all out week-by-week would certainly have gotten the best of me. But, no more!

So, as not to overwhelm you, let’s start out with an easy one…how often do you want to communicate with your donors? There’s no right or wrong answer here as long as you make your decision based on data. How many people do you have to help? How many donors and/or donor segments do you have? What are your other job responsibilities that take away from direct donor marketing activities? What’s your budget? Once you know those things you can make a quality left brain decision about how often you’ll communicate with your donors and when. After my team answered those questions, we opted on 6 times per year—every other month.

Pull that calendar out and begin to map your plan. Don’t be afraid, every plan can be changed. The important thing is to decide the best times to communicate with your donors so you’ll be ready.

Here’s a screenshot of a couple of months of our calendar for this year.

  1. We decided what we want to communicate with our donors each month, so we’re never guessing and we don’t accidentally forget something.
  2. We also looked at what we already know is happening that week of the year…like Board Meetings, which are hectic weeks, for example.
  3. We opted to do all the writing of our marketing materials in one month (patterned cells) and to produce the end product in the next month (solid cells). So, we wrote in January and mailed in February. This way, if we are short on postage or envelopes or time, we have plenty to spare. No fire drill moments!

You can do this, too! Open up an Excel sheet and begin with a calendar. Oh, and by the way, you don’t have to wait until January 1st, the beginning of your fiscal year, or any other specific date. Start now! The sooner you make your plan, the sooner you’ll feel in control of your marketing instead of your marketing having control over you.

Right Brain Marketing Moxie: Let’s take a look at Norman Seeff’s Seven Stage Dynamic of the Creative Process to prime the pump. And let’s just say we can agree on this one basic nonprofit tenet: The dream is to create positive change. Yet, we fall victim to Einstein’s Definition of Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If you feel this as I once did, you might be feeling stuck. What once worked is no longer working and you have some limiting assumptions about what other options you have. Sometimes you’re afraid of what could go wrong. The old stand-by is predictable—and that feels safe. Or maybe you’re resistant to change. John Maxwell once said he thought only leaders liked change. Then as he met many leaders across the world, he discovered that even leaders dislike change unless the change was their idea! Ha! Change is tough for each of us. So, baby steps it is. Those baby steps will chip away at your own fear and resistance as you begin to experience new wins and the removal from the marketing rut.

You certainly don’t have to be as clever as the Mayhem commercials that Allstate airs. (But who doesn't love those, young and old alike!?) And you don’t have to mimic the witty Super Bowl commercials that we just talked about or even buy into the idea of themes like we do at our Foundation. But you do likely need a refresh and creativity can get you there.

One simple example might be using current events. That’s something everyone can relate to, right? You don’t have to flip through too many channels to know that the Master’s Golf Tournament has been on recently. That means the golfing season is officially open. So, check out this golf mailing we did one year to tell our donors about a matching campaign we had going on. We mailed merged our donor’s name in slot #2 and even included a small golf ball marker with our logo on it—a super cheap swaggy item. I really loved the part where we said that each donation to the Foundation entitled them to a mulligan!

Maybe something like this is more than you’ve been doing, but not so over that top that you’ll feel nervous with your new creative flair. Like author of Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert, often says, creativity can begin with imitation. So, find ideas that have worked, beware of Pinterest, and dip your toe in the pool of creativity. Repeat based on results and take a mulligan, if needed.

Generosity is joyous, so let’s have some fun, raise some money, and change the world!

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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