Archive for March, 2012

March 30, 2012

6 Anti-Marketing Lessons

“If you can’t be a good example, then you’ll just have to serve as a horrible warning.” — Catherine Aird

This was going to be a post about a legendary musician appearing at a stellar museum. I was planning on writing about how the museum was leveraging the appearance to generate positive publicity and to bring in a new audience.

Rock Legend Max Weinberg

I’m a huge fan of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. So, when I found out that Max Weinberg, the band’s longtime drummer and former music director of Late Night with Conan O’Brien, would be speaking at the National Museum of American Jewish History, my wife and I jumped at the opportunity and bought tickets.

Unfortunately, the experience itself took me in a different direction as I observed several anti-marketing lessons. The benefit for you is that you can learn from the mistakes of another nonprofit organization without having to make the same mistakes for yourself. So, in that spirit, let me share my experience.

No Problem Solving. When my wife called the museum’s reservation number to purchase our tickets, she was asked if she was a member. My wife then told the agent the reason why we’re not members. Before the new museum building recently opened, we bought a membership at another nonprofit’s fundraising auction. When she contacted the museum, she was told that the museum was closed pending the transition to the new building. Since there was nothing to really “join,” she was told that she could wait to activate our membership until the new building opened. However, when she re-contacted the museum to activate the membership as instructed, she was told that the membership was for the old building and, therefore, they would not activate the membership we had purchased! When my wife related this tale to the reservation agent, the person could not have cared less.

Instead of ignoring the problem, the reservation agent could have taken some initiative. For example, at a minimum, she could have expressed regret for our difficulty. Or, she could have gone a step further by offering to pass the information along to the membership office.

By its actions, or in-action, the museum clearly sent the message that it does not care about us. So, why should we care about the museum? If you want to read about the importance of caring, check-out my post: “The Most Important Part of Any Grateful Whatever Campaign is….”

Do Not Take Names. The telephone ticket agent at the museum was not interested in our name or contact information. The agent only wanted our credit card number. She then assigned us a check-in number. In other words, the museum was going to host hundreds of people, many first-time visitors to museum, and had no plans to capture the contact information for this new audience. As a result, we knew there would be no follow-up communication to see if we enjoyed the program, nor would there be any follow-up to invite us to future events or to purchase a membership.

Clearly, the museum should have captured our mailing address, email address, and phone number. In addition, at the event itself, staff could have even asked audience members to “refer” a friend who might be interested in learning about future events. Audience members who referred someone could then have been entered into a drawing for tickets to another event, free membership, or coupon for the gift shop. This is something that performing arts groups have been doing for years to successfully build their marketing lists.

No Add-on Promotion. When we checked-in, we were not asked if we were museum members. We should have been. If we were members, we should have received a heart-felt word of appreciation. If we were not, we should have been handed a membership brochure for our consideration as well as a list of upcoming events. Now, there might have been membership brochures at the counter, but I didn’t notice. And, I should not have had to notice. The staff should have seized the opportunity to be proactive as a service to those attending.

When you have a distribution channel, you have an opportunity to “sell” more services and/or products. The museum had over 300 people coming through its doors that evening. By further marketing to that large group, the museum might have sold some memberships or tickets to future events. By being, at best, passive, they forfeited that opportunity.

By contrast, I once visited the Victoria and Albert Museum in London to see a special exhibit. It’s one of the world’s truly great museums. The line for speical exhibit tickets was long, and we were unlikely to get in that day. However, a membership staff person came along the line to quietly offer to sell folks a museum membership. By joining, we’d be guaranteed of getting to see the exhibit that day which was great since we were leaving the UK the next. And, we wouldn’t have to wait in line! My wife and I were very happy to join. When you have folks coming through your doors, look for other opportunities for engagement.

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March 23, 2012

Are Zombies Philanthropic?

If a person is philanthropic while he’s alive, will he continue to be philanthropic if he were turned into a zombie?

Well, since zombies are soulless and not particularly bright, I think it’s probably safe to say that zombies would not be great philanthropists. However, I have discovered that zombies just might enable philanthropy.

Runner chased by zombies.

Before I explain, let me just say that you don’t need to check your calendar. I know Halloween is not just around the corner. However, the first of a series of nationwide zombie-infested 5K races of 2012 is coming up in May. And, a portion of the proceeds will benefit the American Red Cross.

“Run for Your Lives” is a 5K race through a zombie-infested obstacle course. The races will take place throughout 2012 in 11 cities around the U.S.A.

In an Oct. 26, 2011 article in The Daily, Derrick Smith, co-founder of the race, said that the first race in Maryland in 2011 was expected to attract about 1,000 participants. Instead, the race attracted far more interest and the number of racers had to be capped at 10,000. In addition, tickets were sold to approximately 1,000 spectators. This generated approximately $800,000 in gross revenue for the production company in addition to revenue generated from other related activities.

Race participants, who pay $77 each for the experience, are equipped with three “health flags” similar to what kids wear when playing flag-football in school. To be eligible for prizes, participants must finish the race with at least one health flag, which the zombies will be trying to seize. If a racer has all of his flags snatched away, he’s still allowed to complete the race, but he won’t be eligible for prizes. And, he’ll need to suffer the humiliation of being listed among the undead.

While these races are for-profit events, the race’s website lists the American Red Cross as a “Charitable Partner” with a portion of the proceeds going to the charity in an exhibition of corporate social responsibility.

This looks like a fun series of events. Not only will participants get to enjoy a fun race, they’ll also get to hear live bands, attend an after-party, and can even camp-out.

While the “Run for Your Lives” races look fun, they raise a number of questions:

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March 16, 2012

4 Valuable Lessons Nonprofits Can Learn from For-profits

I believe that the nonprofit and for-profit sectors can learn a great deal from one another. Over the past several months, I’ve had some experiences that have confirmed this belief. I’d like to share two negative and two positive encounters I’ve had with the for-profit sector and reveal the lessons I learned that can help any nonprofit organization.

Under promise, and over deliver.

I ordered a roast-beef sandwich to go from Au Bon Pain. While I’m not a frequent Au Bon Pain customer, I’ve been one for many, many years. I was looking forward to my sandwich. When I got home, I unwrapped my lunch, and took a big bite. Something wasn’t right. I spit out the bite. There was a piece of paper. I opened my sandwich and found a sheet of deli paper!

Ok, if you make thousands of sandwiches, you’re bound to a make a mistake sooner or later. However, rather than just let the incident slide completely, I thought Au Bon Pain should know about the situation. I thought they might have a new sandwich guy who might benefit from some additional training. So, I called the “800” number on my receipt.

I was not looking for anything. I just wanted to inform the store about the incident so management could be aware and take any action they deemed appropriate.

The customer service representative was very nice. She took a detailed report and said she would pass it along to the store manager. Then, she added that she would have the store manager call me personally. I wasn’t expecting that, but I thought it was a nice move.

Unfortunately, days went by without any call from the Au Bon Pain manager. So, I began to get annoyed. I thought, maybe the customer service rep didn’t pass the report along.

I called the “800” number once again. A new customer service rep took down the information again and also apologized that I had yet to receive a call from the store manager. The rep reassured me that the call would come by the end of the week.

Well, months have gone by, and I still have not heard back from Au Bon Pain.

What started out as a fairly minor problem has turned into a bad customer service situation. Au Bon Pain twice promised me that the store manager would call. Yet, I received no call. This could mean any number of things. For example, it could mean that neither report was passed on to the manager. It could mean that the manager received the reports but simply did not care.

In any case, Au Bon Pain broke its promises to me. As a result, I will no longer do business with them. I have plenty of other food service choices. I don’t need them.

If the original customer service rep had simply told me she would pass along my complaint to the store manager without promising a follow-up call, I would have been fine. I would have felt my voice was heard and that the company was taking appropriate action. Instead, I was promised something that was not delivered. Twice!

All for-profit and nonprofit organizations should under promise and over deliver. If the customer service rep did not promise me a call from the store manager, imagine how pleasantly surprised I would have been if I nevertheless received a call from the manager. Au Bon Pain could have retained me as a loyal customer.

The corollary to “under promise and over deliver” is “do not make promises you can’t keep.” If you’re going to promise something, make sure you have a system in place to ensure the promise is fulfilled.

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March 9, 2012

20 Factoids about Planned Giving. Some May Surprise You.

There is no such thing as a “typical” planned giving program.

The reality is that there are an infinite variety of such programs. They come in various forms in varied degrees of sophistication. Planned giving programs vary by organization type, donor population, organizational budget, and a host of other factors.

A small organization with a limited budget and a modest individual-donor pool may simply promote the idea of naming the charity in a will. By contrast, a large organization with a significant development budget may promote a broad array of planned giving vehicles from bequests to charitable gift annuities to trusts.

Despite the differences from one planned giving program to the next, there are a large number of points of commonality.

This list of 20 factoids about planned giving has been drawn from my book Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing. I’m sharing it here because I’ve found, when I’m speaking around the country, that these are some of the tidbits that people have found particularly interesting and/or that they have been surprised by. Here are the factoids:

1.  Bequests are generally regarded as the most common form of planned gift. Charitable gift annuities come in at a far distant second.

2.  Almost everyone has the ability to make a planned gift. Planned giving is not just for the wealthy. Consider the following:

  • Among survey respondents over age 30, 69 percent expect to leave an inheritance. (The Stelter Company)
  • People over the age of 50 control 70 percent of all privately held financial assets in the United States. (U.S. Census Bureau)
  • A 2005 study found that 50.3 percent of U.S. households owned equities in some form. (Investment Company Institute and Securities Industry Association)

3.  Bequests are the major gift of the middle class. Many individuals wish they could provide significant current support to the nonprofit organizations they love. Unfortunately, they’re not in a financial position to do so. They either don’t have the cash to give or need to preserve their resources to live off of during retirement. Planned giving gives these individuals the opportunity to make a significant gift without pain. For example, a donor can leave her home to her favorite charity upon her death. Or, a donor can give to his favorite organization and receive an income for life. Planned giving allows donors to make more significant gifts than they might otherwise be able to make.

4.  The average age of someone who makes their first charitable bequest commitment is 40-50. This means there is a great deal of time between when the donor includes a charity in his will and when the gift will be realized. That’s one reason why sound stewardship is essential. A nonprofit organization wants to remain in the donor’s will and encourage the amount of that commitment to grow overtime.

5.  High-income women are more likely than men to use complex gift planning tools. While it is unclear why this is the case, we do know that high-income women are more willing than men to establish a trust, for example. You can read more about the giving of women by reading my post “Men v. Women: Who are the Best Planned Giving Prospects?”

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March 2, 2012

The World Giving Index Reveals Good & Bad News

As a result of continued worldwide economic turmoil in 2011, the news about giving around the globe is mixed:


  • The good news is that the world gave more in 2011 than it did in 2010, taking into account money donated, volunteerism, and helping a stranger.


  • The bad news is that the number of people donating money worldwide has gone down. The overall increase in giving came from the increase in volunteerism and helping a stranger.


  • The news for Americans is very good. The United States moved from a fifth place ranking in 2010 to the top spot in 2011 making it “the world’s most giving nation.”


  • The news is also good for Asians. As a region, Asia has seen the largest growth in overall giving.


World Giving Index 2011 -- Map with Country Rank


These insights come from the World Giving Index 2011, published recently by The Charities Aid Foundation, an international charity based in the United Kingdom. The report, compiled from survey data provided by Gallup, ranks charitable behavior in 153 nations. The ranking is based on three measures:

Have you done any of the following in the past month?:

  • Donated money to a charity?
  • Volunteered your time to an organisation?
  • Helped a stranger, or someone you didn’t know who needed help?”

The global average of the three giving behaviors in 2011 was 32.4 percent, up from 31.6 percent in 2010. More specifically, there has been a two percent increase in the global population “Helping a Stranger” and a one percent increase in people “Volunteering.” Unfortunately, the sluggish worldwide economy might be to blame for a one percent decrease in the number of people who gave money to a charity.

In 2011, the top ten most giving countries were:

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