Posts tagged ‘Academy of Natural Sciences’

May 15, 2015

I’m Sorry, but Mother Theresa was Wrong!

Have you ever heard a nonprofit professional, speaking of prospective donors, say:

They should give until it hurts.”

Recently, I once again came across this phrase. I shuddered. Nevertheless, I realized that this person was not alone in his thinking.

The Rev. Jimmy Swaggert, echoing the sentiment of many church leaders and paraphrasing the Bible, is reported to have said:

Give, even at all costs, ‘till it hurts.”

Even Mother Theresa, who has been Beatified by the Roman Catholic Church, reportedly said:

Give, but give until it hurts.”

So, with this blog post, I know I’m going out on a limb. However, I must emphatically state that, on this point, the nonprofit professional I mentioned was wrong. Rev. Swaggert was wrong. Mother Theresa was wrong.

Unless you’re dealing with a population of masochists, asking people to give until it hurts is not a sound strategy. Most people tend to run from things that cause pain and toward things that give them pleasure.

I believe we should inspire people to give until it feels good.

Fortunately, I’m not alone in this belief. Recently, Michael Kaiser spoke at Drexel University and stated:

Make giving fun!”

Michael Kaiser

Michael Kaiser

Kaiser is the Chairman of the DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the University of Maryland. He is also President Emeritus of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. When Kaiser speaks, people listen. And rightfully so. He’s a masterful nonprofit leader and a gifted turn-around expert. Whether you work for an arts organization or not, you owe it to yourself to listen to his remarks. You can find the video by clicking here.

Here are some additional key points that Kaiser made:

[Donors] don’t join our family to be whined at.”

“They join because we’re inspiring and fun.”

“The donor doesn’t owe us allegiance. We need to earn it.”

“Donors get fatigue when we get boring.”

In other words, all nonprofit organizations, whether involving the arts or not, need to make giving a pleasure. We need to recognize that people will be more willing to donate if giving is enjoyable, and they’ll be more willing to continue their support as long as giving continues to be gratifying.

So, how can you more effectively inspire prospective donors by making giving fun?

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January 3, 2014

Do You Have an Attitude Problem?

Has anyone ever accused you of having an attitude problem?

I hope so.

If you don’t have an attitude problem, I encourage you to develop one. For your sake. For the sake of your organization. For the sake of the nonprofit sector. You can even make it your 2014 New Year Resolution.

I’m not suggesting you cultivate a bad attitude. Instead, I’m encouraging you to shake up the status quo regardless of what others might think. I want you to challenge conventional wisdom in an intelligent way.

Remember, if some of our ancestors had not had an attitude problem, we’d still be living in caves.

Let me share two stories that will illustrate what I mean.

I quite fondly remember the very first time someone told me I had an attitude problem. It was Mrs. Imperiali, my first-grade teacher. Mrs. Imperiali, her real name, asked the class, “What’s the Eager Studentsmartest animal in the world?” I immediately raised my hand. When Mrs. Imperiali called on me, I confidently answered, “Dolphins.”

My response puzzled my teacher. She asked, “Why dolphins?” I told her, “Because they don’t kill each other for no reason.”

Mrs. Imperiali snapped, “Mister, you have an attitude problem!”

I need to point out here that, when I was in the first grade, it was during the height of the Vietnam War. I guess Mrs. Imperiali didn’t appreciate what she believed was the anti-war sentiment of my response. However, since I believed in my answer, I did not take my teacher’s criticism as a negative. As a result, I’ve worn the attitude-problem label with pride, not shame, my entire life.

In case you’re wondering, the answer Mrs. Imperiali was going for was “humans.” As it turned out, she had designed her lesson plan to demonstrate that humans are part of the animal kingdom. Oh well.

A couple decades later, I met Carol Buchanan Daws at the Academy of Natural Sciences. Like me, Carol had an attitude problem.

As the Assistant to the Museum Director, Carol was responsible for the back-office processing of museum memberships. Despite being the oldest natural science research institution and museum in the Western Hemisphere, the Academy only had a token membership program and no Director of Membership.

Carol saw an opportunity to grow the membership program. She repeatedly told her boss about the potential of the membership program. Unfortunately, the Museum Director was content with the status quo. So, Carol did the only natural thing she could do: She kept nudging him about it.

Finally, when the Museum Director was sufficiently annoyed or, perhaps, convinced, he appointed Carol Director of Membership.

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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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