Amidst the political banter, I would imagine that there is consensus on one thing; there are far too many great organizations going unnoticed. I call them diamonds in the rough. Meanwhile there are thousands of folks who need their services and funders who would appreciate their smart work. How do we resolve this issue in the philanthropic community and inspire donors to invest in marketing and technology?
Everyone knows that a business spends a tremendous amount of money bringing their product to market. They do focus groups, create brand profiles, build marketing plans for several audiences, and use a myriad of avenues to promote their product. For a nonprofit, it is challenging to get a funder who understands that 1. Spending money on marketing will make money, 2. Doing marketing is imperative for success, 3. Nonprofits are a business with customers, and 4. Smart branding, media relations, and marketing is not cheap.
Time and again at the Women’s Sports Foundation we struggled to fundraise for dollars that would pay for consulting help for a marketing plan or to underwrite promotional pieces about the programs. We would build the costs into the annual budget to do marketing events, hire public relations firms, pay for print materials, etc. and always, when budget challenges arose, this was the place that was cut first.
Thankfully, the work we did was not so edgy or radical that corporations were willing to step up and carry the logo or message on their packaging. This helped build the visibility of the organization for sure. But it took a sophisticated donor who agreed to release some of her endowed gift to help update the organization’s brand, messaging, and website; an organization’s most important marketing platform. I promised her we would return the funds to the endowment within a year because the new look and website would build shareholder confidence. Donors had made it clear the image did not match the level of excellence of the organization. As a former corporate marketing executive, she got it. And yes, within a year we did repay the $300,000 to the endowment.
I know that some of you are thinking – wow, $300,000 seems like a huge sum of money! But guess what, that is what it costs to do it right! Recently I had lunch with Jason Franklin, the Executive Director of Bolder Giving, a great next generation mind and spokesperson for what I am calling the “generosity movement”. He and his organization have a three year history of providing quality resources for giving and, with a recent matching gift from Gates Foundation, they are investing wisely in marketing.
The investment Bolder Giving is making in a branding consultant, social media coach, and web development and media relations teams has paid off. The organization was named or referred to every other week in the Chronicle of Philanthropy for three consecutive months and they are well on their way to meeting their fundraising goal with a dollar-for-dollar match by the Gates Foundation.
Jason is engaging regularly with writers from more than 50 philanthropic outlets and, in so doing, is building public engagement on ‘what is enough?’ and making bolder gifts. “We have made an investment of more than 25% of our budget on media, web, and communications and we know this is already paying off with increased interest and investment in the work,” says Jason.
Suffice it to say, the next generation gets it. The challenge is convincing some of the longer standing or smaller organizations Boards and funders that this is important.