They have a big responsibility, and this makes them cautious in their approach.
This caution, however, doesn’t always manifest in inherently productive ways. I believe that it encourages a tendency towards instant gratification over sustainable growth.
This is why many nonprofits see marketing as a tool to bring out when you have a specific, pressing need. Maybe it’s time for new building or you have a project you’d like to launch; it will take some effort to stir up enthusiasm and secure the funds. Or maybe you’ve been losing supporters, and you want to figure out how to get back in their favor. Maybe your annual fundraiser is coming up, and you want to make sure you’re in good shape for the coming year.
Whatever the reason, you set up a campaign and put a lot of effort into attracting attention and getting people involved. Then, when the project is over, you close up shop and get back to your usual routine… right up until the next time you decide to make another push.
This may sound like an obvious and logical system to you. How else should you be running things? You invest in marketing when you have a goal in mind; you stop when things are going fine. I often hear people say, “Things are going well right now, so we don’t need to market.”
There’s a metaphor that I find really helpful in explaining this issue: the crash diet vs. the healthy lifestyle. The crash dieter eats whatever he wants and doesn’t worry about exercise. He lives a normal life and goes months without thinking about his health because, according to his logic, he doesn’t need to. There’s no emergency. Everyone gets tired taking the stairs sometimes, right?
In other words, there’s no obvious problem that demands attention or action.
It’s only once his pants start getting hard to close that he’s compelled to make an effort, at least for as long as it takes to return to normal. Sometimes, this will be an easy fix, just a quick bout of diet and exercise; sometimes, it will be harder, if he let himself go more than he realized or if he’s facing any other medical issues at the same time. Crash dieting is rough on the body, too, and will probably take some kind of toll.
This is very different from a person who lives a healthy lifestyle every day. I’m not talking about someone who spends his life in the gym, bulking up more and more. I’m talking about a guy who does light but regular workouts and eats well, maybe with a cheat day every now and then. He gets routine checkups and visits the dentist every year.
Unsurprisingly, he tends to feel good in his body and has energy to spare. We shouldn’t get carried away and say he’ll never have a medical issue, but all else being equal, he’s going to have an easier time than the crash dieter.
Not only are you choosing to start from scratch over and over again; you’re opening yourself up to problems that could be avoided with a little upkeep.
On the other hand, if you keep your donors feeling interested and involved, you don’t have to worry about losing support, or work so hard to win it back. Keep your Identity Film up to date, and you’ll be more effective at converting new leads even without actively seeking them out.
I know it’s a departure from the usual way of doing things, and it may take some convincing. But by taking a proactive instead of purely reactive marketing approach, you’ll be setting your organization up for good, long-term health.
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