Wait — did that guy just call us stupid?

You may be aware of the ongoing series on this blog called Stupid Nonprofit Ads. It is among the most popular things on this blog.

I think people like it because the nonprofit ads I feature are often funny, and I treat them as funny. Also, many people have watched in horror as an ill-considered bit of marketing was foisted on their organization — and this series gives the comfort that they are not alone.

But … stupid?

When I first named Stupid Nonprofit Ads, I thought of it as being like Stupid Pet Tricks, the old David Letterman TV feature that made light-hearted fun of some of the goofy things people train their pets to do. But with an edge, because in my opinion, glib, abstract nonprofit ads can be an existential threat to the fundraising programs that get saddled with them. They need to be stopped, and my part in stopping them is with laughter. Which is occasionally effective.

A better name for my series might be “Harmful Nonprofit Ads.” But that’s not very funny.

The label “Stupid” came home to me in an unexpected way last month. I was at a fundraising conference when I was approached by a fellow conference attendee. She was Nienke Teunissen, who works at War Child Holland in Amsterdam. Nienke was one of the people responsible for a video I had recently featured as a Stupid Nonprofit Ad (here), and she wanted to talk to me about that.

Long story short, we had a great conversation. It turns out War Child’s video was not created as a fundraiser. It had an entirely different purpose. But — being a YouTube video — it “escaped” its proper context and began circulating out of context. That’s how I saw it, and I thought it was a bad attempt at fundraising. And critiqued it as such.

Which, I admit, is not really fair.

But here’s what I learned from Nienke. She is not stupid. Nor are her colleagues at War Child. Nor was the video they made (at least in its intended context).

And I’m pretty sure that the majority of people involved in creating “Stupid Nonprofit Ads” are also not stupid. I imagine stupidity is rarely a contributing factor.

All that to say: When I called your project “stupid,” I really didn’t mean I think you are stupid. You aren’t.

I will no doubt feature other ads in the future. And they’ll get that “stupid” label. Please know that the label is not meant for any human — just for what I think the ad might be doing (or not doing).

And it’s possible I’ll be wrong and it’s not what I think it is. If that happens to you, please talk to me, like Nienke did. I’ll learn something from you as I did from her.

I know this is really corny, but I took a selfie with Nienke Teunissen. We were both at the super-wonderful Ask Direct Fundraising Summer School in Dublin. Which, I hope, will happen again next summer! If you can make it, i highly recommend it.

Dublinselfie

Here’s a thought: Maybe you’re working on a project and want to make sure it doesn’t turn out stupid. I’d love talk it through with you! Click here to schedule a free 25 minute session with me. You and I can talk about your non-stupid project — or any fundraising topic of your choice.


Comments

4 responses to “Wait — did that guy just call us stupid?”

  1. This makes ano sense as at all. And War Child should be the last one throwing stones. Worst and most ineffective organisation I have ever worked for.

  2. This makes ano sense as at all. And War Child should be the last one throwing stones. Worst and most ineffective organisation I have ever worked for.

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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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