Nonprofits can be agents of change in a community
by Andrea Wiley
“People have a natural desire to be altruistic. When that desire is stimulated, we will give more money to urgent causes — possibly much more. When it is not, we will give more money to the consumer brands that do stimulate and create desires for private goods.”
— Dan Pallotta, Harvard Business Review
There’s no doubt about it, Memphians are altruistic, ranked one of the most charitable cities by The Chronicle of Philanthropy. Memphis donated 5.1 percent of its 2012 income, with the total contribution coming in at $1,039,345,000. And Memphians across the board are charitable. Those making up to $25,000 a year donated 13 percent of their income and people making $200,000 a year or more donated 4 percent. Now those are statistics to be proud of.
Currently there are 4,483 501(c)(3)-designated nonprofits that are active and operating in good standing in the city of Memphis, according to Mia Madison, director of Community Information for the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis. That’s a lot of charitable organizations that depend on the altruism of our city, specifically in the form of funding.
The reality is that many of these nonprofits are operating on a shoestring budget, with little to no funds allocated for marketing. If they do have a marketing budget it is most likely dependent on donated creative services and media, which unfortunately means they tend to get what they pay for. Pro bono work can be both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it fills a short-term hole in the budget. A curse because, while it’s free, it may not be on-brand or it may not be timely. Free, but it doesn’t reach your prospective donors. Free, but ultimately not a strategy to achieve long-term goals towards a sustainable future for the organization.
Marketing and fund development work hand-in-hand. Building awareness of a nonprofit’s brand and mission is a critical step toward raising money for today and for years to come. That awareness gets built by frequently reaching your donors and prospects on a regular basis, to ultimately “stimulate” that desire to be altruistic.
People care about causes deeply, or at least have the potential to, but they have to be asked directly to get engaged, to volunteer, and to donate. And not just once, but again and again. Development professionals are faced with this challenge every day and work extremely hard to make these connections, cultivate these relationships, and convert occasional donors to annual and legacy donors.
It’s no coincidence that U.S. ad spending is projected to reach $200 billion by the end of 2016, according to statista.com. Just as the for-profit world invests in marketing and advertising to support its sales efforts, nonprofits can effectively support fund development efforts to build awareness, stimulate desire, and entice consumers to action.
Nonprofits have to focus on ROI, too, and unabashedly make a commitment to communications to gain exposure and advance their cause. The donor’s return on investment is knowing that they played a critical role towards fulfilling the organization’s mission: saving lives, eradicating disease, ending poverty, or being a change agent that shifts cultural norms.
Andrea Wiley is director of account management at DCA Creative Communications Consulting. She is an adjunct professor teaching Advertising at the University of Memphis, and is the 2015-2016 president of the American Advertising Federation, Memphis Chapter.
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