Why not? I’ll tell you why not.
You’ve got to sizzle it!
Two articles caught my attention this week, and each provides the answer to how nonprofits can share what they do in a manner that inspires passionate philanthropic investment.
the frustrating but undeniable fact that important-but-unappealing stories like global climate change are less “captivating” to most readers than are unimportant-but-appealing things like, say, singer Taylor Swift in short pants.
So how to get people to pay attention when your work is about stuff folks would rather not face? Or how to get folks to truly grasp the importance – and relevance – of what you’re doing to their daily lives, or to the world they want to live in?
You can’t simply beat folks over the head with litanies about your work. This many people in crisis. That many people suffering. The percentage of cutbacks. The pie charts, infographics and graphs. Yeah, I know. It’s terrible… so many people… mind-numbing… yawn…
You can’t lecture people into caring about what you do or shame them for not giving because “there but for the grace of….” It may seem “right” to you, but it won’t work. Yeah, I’m a really bad person… I mean to do better… I’m feeling pretty crummy right now…
No matter how rational your argument, it’s not likely to inspire heartfelt action. Because human beings aren’t wired that way. We need to be captivated.
Reason doesn’t persuade us. Stories do.
The second article that captured my attention is The Trick to Marketing by Hugh MacLeod. He explains that the real trick to marketing is the de-commodification of the mundane. He uses examples from retail (Sneakers, Water and even Steak), but they’re 100% applicable to nonprofits.
Stop a minute to consider what you’ve got to “sell.” Your “program” or “service.” Right? But you’ve got to make it about more than that. Those are commodities. You’ve got to make it about hope, or ego or fear or empathy. Something emotional.
The point is: It doesn’t matter how mundane, drab, uninteresting your business is, there will be a way to overlay something compelling, mashing up the unexpected in a way that creates magic.
The best way I know to cast a magic spell is with a story.
The best nonprofit stories spin a tale of misfortune, struggle or conflict; depict a protagonist you come to care about, and then show your donor how to be the hero who creates the happy ending.
Let’s go back to that nice steak you’ve got for a minute. In fact, let’s go back to before it was a steak – to when it was a cow. What’s the story of that cow? Most cows are pretty mundane. After you’ve seen one or two, well… But what if your cow were, say purple? Seth Godin talks about Purple Cows, and defines them as anything phenomenal, counterintuitive, exciting . . . remarkable. Every day, folks ignore a lot of brown cows, but you can bet they won’t ignore a Purple Cow.
Mind you, I’m not suggesting you apply smoke and mirrors – or purple paint – to sell something that’s not inherently worth selling. This isn’t trickery. This is about your remarkable cause, that’s found a need and is filling it, in a way that no one else does quite the way you do.
Images: Hugh MacLeod, Gaping Void and Flickr.