Untidy Josephs

Jul 13, 2022

It was three years ago this week that we were on vacation in the beautiful Colorado Springs. Our youngest son was in the Army at the time, and thankfully not in Afghanistan this particular year, so we decided to go visit him and the stunning scenery that Colorado brings—after all it does have the world color in its very name!

As was the case when he was deployed, we’d often ask him what he wanted from home. Clearly in Afghanistan there were few creature comforts, so we shipped more cans of SpaghettiOs overseas than you'd believe. Whatever your thinking, double it! Personally, I’ve never liked that Italian delicacy. But it was a favorite of Dalton’s who had never eaten a McDonalds hamburger at the time—he was a super picky eater when he was younger. So, you can imagine how well the Military MRE’s went over with his selective appetite.

Therefore, SpaghettiOs it was. He found that in the miserable heat of a hot Afghanistan summer he could easily place a can of SpaghettiOs on the top of their military vehicles when they would go out into the villages to conduct their missions. By the time they got back, the cans were hot enough that there was no microwave needed. He might get his creativity from his momma and it was working for him. Chef Boyardee would be proud!

But, for this particular vacation he was back in the states and craving some all-American Sloppy Joes—often called Untidy Josephs in the Brown Bungalow because of a show we used to watch when we were kids. As you can imagine, there aren’t many restaurants you can go to and get such a fine midwestern delight. While it’s super easy to make, it's not so easy in a barracks dorm room with nothing but a mini-fridge. So, we trekked on over to the nearest Super Target and bought all the accoutrements—from hamburger to an electric skillet. Then we threw in a long extension cord into the cart because these Untidy Josephs were going to be made on the balcony of the resort we stayed in. You can’t get much more redneck than that, but when your kid wants a reminder of home, you give him a reminder of home.

All this to say that sometimes you just have to get creative. And when you do, that creativity develops memories that last long after the day they took place. Wouldn’t it be great if we could do that with for donors? Create a memory that they’ll remember for years to come—maybe even one they’ll tell their friends and family about?  You can!  As Elizabeth Gilbert says in Big Magic, “Ideas are driven by a single impulse:  to be made manifest.”  You can be the one that brings an idea to life!

You see, left brain and right brain thinking is a dual process theory. That’s why I write this blog. Both are important. In fact, in the nonprofit fundraising world, the secret sauce is how they work together, not alone.

Left Brain Marketing Methods: Nonprofits (really everyone but especially us) need to easy to do business with. Period. End of sentence. One way to influence your donors to give early and often is to help them remember to do so. One-and-done fundraising doesn’t work. Use your left brain to calculate when to remind your donors to give, and maybe more importantly, when not to remind them to give. 

Right Brain Marketing Moxie:  Zoe Change postulates in her book Influence is Your Superpower that “Business success ultimately depends on long-term relationships in the form of referrals, word of mouth, customer loyalty, and employee retention. You want people to be happy to say yes both today and in the future.” So, how do you use your right brain to do that? You build a relationship that shows you really know them through your actions. Let’s talk about it!

Left Brain Marketing Methods:  You’re busy, right? Everyone is. There’s work and kids, grandkids and sports. There’s your community and your landscaping, your spouse and your laundry. Heck, you barely have time for a nap! Your donors are in the same boat. It's a very crowded boat. So, if you have selected to communicate with the donors that have both an affinity for what you do and the capacity to do something about it and they still haven’t responded, it’s likely because they’re just barely keeping up. That’s why we have to remind them in a frequently and timely manner. You can bring your organization top of mind by reporting on your progress or surprising them with gratitude. In-between those activities you’ll pepper their mailbox or inbox with the right ask for that donor. And, to influence them to take action, you’ll need to do this more than once...at a good time. I’ve told you the story before about not communicating with professional tax advisors any time near April 15th—Tax Day. Any ask at that time is sure to be overlooked simply due to the madness. But it is a great time to surprise them with gratitude--then April 15th is ideal!

You can see with this one example that you need to use your left brain logical, decision-making skills to determine when the best time to communicate with your donors might be. And to be fair, when the best time is for you and your team to make it happen as well. A sample of ours looks like this:

While this can be organized any way you’d like, the important thing is that you have a plan. On our chart, we know that the striped lines indicate when we’ll be writing our direct mail pieces—that’s when it works best of each of our schedules.  And since this is created via a calendar format, we can easily plan for it. The solid lines note when we’ll be sending them. Again, calendared out so we can plan our work and work our plan.

And the spots that are blacked out are intentional. We know when we can’t pull it off. Prepping for audit takes priority, so our CFO won’t be writing or sending during those times. When I write our Annual Report, I won’t be writing anything else. That’s what works for us.

And every month of the year has a plan just like this. We choose to have six touchpoints with our donors each year—because they’re busy and we need to remind them about how they can help make more impact in our community. We choose those dates--on purpose. You need to choose your dates—and the number of touchpoints, too. Believe it or not, one way to be easy to do business with is to build in the reminders that your donors need—because they’re crazy busy.

Right Brain Marketing Moxie: In Change’s book, she blows my mind when she conveys this message. “The bedrock principle of influencing behavior is this: People tend to take the path of least resistance. Ease is the single best predictor of behavior. Better than motivation, intentions, price, quality, or satisfaction.” So, how easy can you make it? She goes on to say, “How customers answer that one questions explains one-third of their willingness to buy again, to increase their business with the company, or to rave about it to other people.” Just imagine if 33% of your donors took these actions—it would be monumental for your impact and your bottom line!

How do you do this? Not surprisingly, you have to use your right brain to appeal to the right brain of your donor. Donors first engage with anything you send them through two filters: attention and motivation. If you can’t pass through those two donor filters, you’ll never make it to their left brain filter than determines what and when to donate to your organization. You have to get them to open your mail! And when they do, you have to be easy to do business with. Think Amazon one-click ordering. Or maybe you have to adopt Venmo for donors who don’t have checkbooks—checkbooks are old school for many these days. Of course, you have to offer credit/debit card options outside of the literal cold, hard cash. But giving stock should be an option or Required Minimum Distributions (RMD’s) or Giving Every Month. These choices aren't best for everyone but you know your donor audiences better than anymore. If you get their attention and motivate them by explaining what solution you are trying to attain and what action they need to take—the easiest one for them—you’ll get results. Find the tools that prove to be the easiest way for each donor group to give and become the path of least resistance.

Some people are celebrating their anniversary, today is our 29th. Some are sending care packages to Afghanistan. Ok, nobody is making Untidy Josephs on the balcony of a resort in Colorado but they’re doing something else on vacation that makes memories for their families. You’re busy living your life just like your donors are. So, be easy to do business with by sending your marketing to the right donors with the right message at the right time. Science has proven time and time again that the dual process theory of left brain and right brain thinking actually works. That’s how my son learned to cook SpaghettiOs on the top of a military vehicle in Afghanistan. Plan your work and work your plan and be easy to do business with--that's the trifecta!

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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