So, What’s Ahead?

In the flurry of daily deadlines, we seldom take the opportunity to step back for a look ahead. Where’s the industry going? What are we doing to make sure our organization is prepared?

The 4th Annual Inspired Fundraising Summit at Avila University offered regional fundraising professionals an opportunity to do just that. Sponsored by the Hartsook Institute for Fundraising and presented in partnership with NonProfit Connect and the Association of Fundraising Professionals, the afternoon forum offered three distinct lenses from which to peer into the future.

Professor Jen Shang, Ph.D. led off with the broadest and most far-reaching perspective, a challenge to consider what might be new in “philanthropic projects, tools and organizational designs” over the next 25 years. “Self-sacrifice is not sustainable,” she quipped in assessing some current (and older) models of giving.

Dr. Shang presented recently completed research, Insights into the Future of Philanthropic Innovation, in which the focus on 25 leading/successful philanthropists established that the self was not sacrificed, but grew through helping others. Building on that initial research, Dr. Shang presented her case for the need for philanthropic literacy – “one’s ability to experience, express, and grow love for mankind, sustainably based on knowledge and ‘good thinking.” It’s an enticing concept, and worth downloading the report to dig a little deeper!

Lest the crowd float away into the esoteric, Roger Craver, Agitator and pioneer direct response fundraiser, was on hand to bring them back to reality. In his presentation, "Don’t Eat the Poinsettia,” he emphasized the need to move from myth-based to evidence-based practices.

Rather than rely on “rules of thumb,” (mail more, make more; a 2-for-1 match beats a 1-for-1; etc.) he encouraged attendees to challenge their own thinking and practices in a considered and measurable way. “Maintaining status quo is the highest risk habit an organization can undertake,” he cautioned. 

The final session was a panel of local philanthropists, as has grown to be the tradition at the Inspired Fundraising Summit. Lamar Hunt, Jr., Founder of Loretto Foundation, and Kent Sunderland, President of The Sunderland Foundation, responded to a broad range of questions about why they give and why they don’t. 

There were a number of worthwhile insights – “It’s still a relationship business.” “Doing your homework” (preparation) and “personal follow-up” still make a difference in how funding happens now. But it was also fascinating to listen to their perspectives on how these family foundations are changing as the next generations move into major giving decisions.

So, what's ahead for you? More importantly, what are you doing to prepare?

Maximize Your Investment in Video

Many nonprofit organizations commission professional videos. These are often produced to coincide with a major annual event or development of a new website.


Typically, video production is a higher price tag item, so we always encourage our clients to get full use of their videos. If you have a video already produced, or are considering one, here are some ways to leverage your investment fully.

1)    Avoid dating the piece. Specific stats, dates and other information is tempting to include, but your video will be more useful long-term without this information. Remember, this information can also be placed on a webpage where you embed the video. 

2)    Make your video multi-purpose. There are so many uses for video that go well beyond a single event or webpage. Some that come to mind:
a.    Welcome emails for new constituents or donors.
b.    Social media postings (consider “pinning” your best video to the top of your Twitter or Facebook feed).
c.     Major gift presentations (bring the video on an ipad).
d.    Community presentations or trade show events.
e.    Television PSAs (See if local stations will donate air time). When you’re producing the video, be sure to inquire about a TV-ready version.

3)    Consider producing different lengths of your video. You may find it useful to have a short, medium and long version of your video for different uses. It’s much easier to get those “cuts” when the video is produced than down the road. Remember, studies show viewership declines the longer the video is, so the shorter version may prove to be the most powerful.

Yes, video content can be costly, but also highly effective. The key is in getting what you need and then fully putting it to work for you.

Nonprofit Marketing Hits the Streets—Boys Town in Omaha’s Old Market

Fresh from a wild and rollicking trip to the Old Market in Omaha. Ok, not so wild, but wonderful still. Have you been? If not, I paraphrase The Bard when I say, “Get thee to Omaha!” I’m also fresh from the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival’s performance of Hamlet, but I’ll spare you more horrible Shakespeare puns. It was so good…

 Back to Omaha.

Walking around Omaha’s Old Market, I noticed the life-sized, graduate-shaped placards that Boys Town had all over the place. Now, I work in the nonprofit world. I know who Boys Town is. And perhaps most people in Omaha do as well.

But this particular weekend, there were about ten zillion visitors in Omaha for some NCAA college baseball jam. Also, this year is apparently Boys Town’s 100th anniversary. Do you think there are now many more people in this world who know what Boys Town is and what they do?

What a completely brilliant tactic. Good on you, Boys Town.

These signs do three big things in support of Boys Town's marketing mojo worth mentioning:

Disrupt. You are going to stop and look at them. They’re literally in your path on the sidewalk. The copy was brief, but incredibly powerful.

Intrigue. About that copy…No more than two or three sentences, but when you’re reading something like “Witnessed her father shoot at her mother. Now she serves others…” you don’t need to embellish. There was a single line with a web address as a call to action.

Legitimize. Should some of these good people receive a direct mail package from Boys Town, they’ll remember that moment in the Old Market when they saw those life-sized placards. They’ll remember the gripping stories of the “students” they met on the street.

And someone just drew that heart on the picture of the student you see here. A really lovely ongoing conversation IRL. Long live IRL.