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.
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:
1. How much money will the American Red Cross receive? If it’s a respectable amount, the race promoters should consider proudly mentioning this on the event website. The promoters might also consider including a page explaining why they named the Red Cross as their only Charitable Partner. Doing these two things would emphasize the charitable side of the event and further promote the Red Cross.
2. Do the event promoters have a formal agreement with the Red Cross? I hope so. Before allowing its name and logo to be used by a for-profit company, any nonprofit organization should reach a formal agreement with the promoter. Such an agreement will protect both parties and clearly outline the rights and responsibilities of each.
3. Why aren’t more nonprofits this creative? To be sure, other nonprofit organizations have used a creative zombie theme or have partnered with a promotional company that has used such a theme. For example, the Cleveland Food Bank and the Mississippi Optometric Foundation have both benefited from zombie-infested events. But, far more nonprofits do the same tired walks, runs, and bike-a-thons. I have to believe that a little creativity would go a long way. If for-profit event promoters are raking in the money by being a bit creative, why not nonprofit organizations?
If you want to bring a bit more creativity to your work and come up with more good ideas, here are six principles from Breakthrough Thinking for Nonprofit Organizations by Bernard Ross and Clare Segal that can help you:
1. “ Go for a burst.” If you want to end up with one good idea, you have to start out with many ideas. When you go for a “burst” of ideas, do not waste time qualifying or evaluating the ideas. Just let loose and jot down as many ideas as you can think of. There will be plenty of time to evaluate each of the ideas once you have them down on paper.
2. “Watch for your preferences.” If you want to come up with truly creative ideas, be aware of what your personal preferences or biases are and do not be trapped by them. The best idea might be something you haven’t considered before, or it might even be someone else’s idea.
3. “Rule out nothing.” Considering a crazy or impossible idea may lead ultimately to a perfect idea. Or, upon further consideration, a ridiculous idea might not seem so silly after all. So, be sure to carefully consider all the ideas you come up with.
4. “Avoid killer phrases.” Such phrases can stymie your own thinking and can discourage others from offering up their own creative ideas. Here are some sample killer phrases from the book: “It’ll never work here.” “The board won’t stand for it.” “It’s not in our budget.” Have you ever used any of those phrases or another killer phrase? If you have, don’t do it again. Using such phrases only preserves the status quo. Stop using killer phrases and you’ll open yourself to more creative ideas and encourage those around you to do the same.
5. “Build on ideas.” Once you have your idea list, build on it. By themselves, some of your ideas might be worthless. But, by combining some of those ideas, you might come up with a new, fantastic thought.
6. “Look through others’ eyes.” Consider how others will respond to your ideas. I’m a huge fan of being donor-centered. My own book is called Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing because I believe so much in this principle. In the nonprofit world, we need to pay attention to what our donors want and what those we serve want. By the way, if you want to appeal to a particular audience, look through their eyes. For example, if you want to appeal to young people, consider asking a group of them for their ideas.
To really unleash the power of creativity, be sure to check-out Ross’ and Segal’s book. You can also read Bernard’s guest blog post here.
That’s what Michael Rosen says… What do you say?