How award-winning work destroys nonprofit organizations

A few months ago I wrote about some obnoxiously stupid nonprofit marketing that won an award from D&AD, an ad-industry organization in the UK. (See Stupid nonprofit ads: garbage in, garbage out.

Mark Phillips, of the excellent queer ideas blog, also commented on the same work. He was later invited to write at D&AD about the problem with ad-agency-style creativity when applied to nonprofits, at Fundraising would be better without this award.

Mark really put his finger on what’s wrong with the ad industry approach to nonprofit marketing:

… expensive re-brands and advertising campaigns which tend to push donors and charities further apart by swapping an authentic experience of helping another human being, or fighting for a cause you believe in, with a ‘game-changing’ creative idea accompanied by another strict set of brand guidelines that demonstrate just how great the charity is.

The secret to successful fundraising is not a “supply-side” brand that does a great job of bragging about the nonprofit.

The secret is a donor-side fundraising offer that’s authentic, emotional, and important to the donor.

Supply-side branding is what produces those gloriously stupid nonprofit ads. But worse than that, it’s responsible for a lot of garden-variety ineffective fundraising. Stuff that will never get featured in a blog because it’s not stupid, just weak or misdirected. These efforts waste billions of dollars in missed revenue every year. They are strangling many once-noble organizations.

If you want to raise funds, you’re going to have to do fundraising. If you don’t like that, you need to find a different profession, because you will not succeed in this one.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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