New Media Undies

Untitled-1This idea has been articulated many times, but it bears repeating.

Back in medieval Europe, with the rise of the merchants and craftsmen classes and the growth of urban industry, such as it was in the 10th Century, peasants started a general migration into the cities. With that migration these peasants came in close daily proximity to more genteel types of folks of both sexes. The laid back fashion standards of the fields — basically a simple tunic with one’s nether regions exposed on occasion — simply would not fly in the close quarters of the city where such exposures were the subject of great ribald humor. (Some things never change, I might add.)

So the demand for underclothing grew: shifts, briefs, the occasional undershirt in the colder climates, that sort of thing. Moreover, since they were worn so close to the more, shall we say, sensitive parts of the body, these articles were more comfortable, and therefore more popular, when they were made with cloth that was professionally woven in linen or cotton, not the coarse homespun stuff of the field.

The growth in urbanized communities also created the rise of the Medieval Bureaucrat, and with him came an increased demand for documents, which in turn spurred the development of paper making, because papyrus or animal skins, the accepted “channels” of their time, were expensive and hard to make or procure.

And what do you need to make medieval paper? You need rags, preferably those made from the longer weaves provided by, you guessed it,  professionally woven linens and cottons, the very same materials used in used in underwear. Continue reading

It’s Time to Discard Emotional v. Rational

BlogPic_16-1-10For decades, the fundraising community has accepted the notion that the act of giving is an emotional behavior. Without doubt, there is solid scientific ground on which to build this foundational belief.

Fundraising campaigns are built around this assumption: “We have a serious problem we are trying to solve, and we believe we can move you to help us to solve it.”

And often the persuasion behind that emotional urge to give — the argument for giving to a specific organization, for instance — contains a very rational assumption: “Your gift to us represents your best investment for finding a solution.”

This duality inspires endless argument. What approach should we take when we speak to our donors in this campaign? Emotional or Rational? How much of each?

Accepting this notion at face value, however, is risky.

The Fundamental Error

Strategic fundraising campaigns run on the rails of an offer, driven by a singular case for giving. Often, fundraisers use the emotional/rational yardstick to create the messaging and positioning around the offer. But differentiating fundraising offers as emotional versus rational suggests that they exist in opposition to each other.

This, of course, is fundamentally illogical.

The opposite of emotional is unemotional. The opposite of rational is irrational.

Continue reading

Social Studies

14.11.14When some folks discover that I create direct response fundraising, they feel compelled to reproach me for the industry’s practices. I am scolded for address labels, greeting cards, and calendars. I am lectured on the wisdom of wasting resources for success rates that, under the best circumstances, rarely exceed 1% to cold audiences. I am chided for destroying forests in the pursuit of nonprofit overhead.

What I hear more and more, especially from the under-50 crowd, is that traditional offline channels are a dying medium, and those organizations who cling to them are either irresponsible or doomed to extinction.

Sometimes their reproach is justified. Too often we fundraisers fall back on tired, over-utilized “best practices” and settle for sound but not particularly breakthrough outcomes.

Sometimes I get a little ticked off. And not because much of the criticism comes from people who neither understand the mechanics of the business, nor the psychodynamics of public charitable giving. No forward-thinking organization I am aware of is anything but circumspect (if not downright proactive) about measures they can take today to ensure the philanthropy of future generations of American donors.

The truth is that, especially as an acquisition medium, direct mail still works. And not just to seniors. It still works, often in conjunction with other channels, to donors under the age of 50, who, by the way, have generally less discretionary income to commit to charity.

To a large measure, the power of digital media as acquisition tools is still being discovered. They are incredibly powerful engagement and retention channels, with revenue potential that is still yet to be truly tapped. However, for attracting new donors — especially those that stick with an organization over time — email, search, banner, social, and the like, taken on their own, are still works in progress.

Moreover, social media, as it turns out, is not even particularly good at engagement and retention. A recent study by the journal Sociological Science was conducted on Facebook’s Save Darfur Cause. Essentially, it confirmed what direct response fundraisers already know. Continue reading

Oscar Selfie Truths

oscarselfie_smallThe Washington Post decried Ellen DeGeneres’s Academy Award now famous celebrity “selfie” tweet, in which she asked the TV viewing audience to break the retweet record, which had been set by President Obama in 2012.

Apparently, the Post felt that by using the TV medium to promote the social medium, somehow the “record” was diminished in some way. Perhaps, in the Social Media Record Book, wherever it is maintained (Mark Zuckerberg’s attic?), the record will forever carry an asterisk.

Who cares?

The larger point that Ellen made to the world, unwittingly perhaps, is one that those of us in direct marketing have known for decades:

  • Send a message across a number of channels, and the potential for action is far greater.

She also made second point, which we in the business have known even longer than the first:

  • If you want your audience to do something, tell them exactly what it is you want them to do.

Ellen has a career in direct marketing ahead of her if this whole celebrity thing doesn’t work out.

6 Rules of Engagement

14-02-18_graphicIn 2003, Arizona State University psychology professor Robert B. Cialdini published an article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review entitled “The Power of Persuasion: Putting the Science of Influence to Work in Fundraising.”

I keep a copy of it on my desktop and review it regularly.

The article summarized Cialdini’s findings concerning the science behind human influence (examined at length in his book Influence: Science and Practice), and concluded that nonprofits could reasonably rely on 6 rules of persuasion when fundraising. I like to think of them as the Creative Strategist’s 6 Rules of Engagement.

Although Cialdini was speaking to nonprofit executives, and was suggesting ways that organizations could position themselves to best leverage donor drivers, the rules can also be used by direct response fundraising creatives to powerful effect:

Reciprocity. Donors “repay” organizations for services or items that they have already provided them or their community.

Scarcity. Donors react to opportunities they perceive as more valuable because they are less available, specifically; donors are inclined to support organizations that provide unique solutions to the donor’s area of concern.

Continue reading