Listen to the Wizard

If you have never encountered the so-called “Wizard of Ads,” you are in a for a special treat. Roy Williams, aka the Wizard, is an autodidact genius and self-made advertising mogul. He has plowed his fortune into what has to be the world’s most unconventional business school outside of Austin, TX. It’s called the Wizard… Read more

Everybody is a dirty word

Who are you talking to? If your answer is everybody, you are wrong. I just spent a day in a strategic planning session where a group of 10 people took 8 hours to figure out: Which two primary audiences we are targeting What we need those audiences to do How we value those activities. It… Read more

When branding goes wrong

No one gives to an organization they don’t know. That’s true. But brand communications aren’t necessarily always fundraising communications. Why? Because the way an organization WANTS to be perceived is not always the way the organization IS perceived by current donors. Therefore, when that glitzy agency presents your new brand mantra, it doesn’t always equal… Read more

A cautionary tale from Disney for non profits: What do you stand for?

This Disney cautionary tale is one all non profits should heed. (Thanks to Roy Williams for the reminder). Michael Eisner came to Disney in 1984. He initially made Disney extraordinarily profitable at a time when competitors were stumbling. His strategy? Turn Disney’s greatest movie treasures into direct to video sequels of old classics like Cinderella. Did you ever… Read more

One thing you should do to increase donations: Be laser focused

Is your donor communications plan “everything but the kitchen sink” or laser-focused? Many organizations we work for want to tell their donors about EVERYTHING they do — that’s the everything but the kitchen sink approach. For a donor this is overwhelming and can feel unfocused and unclear. Organizations who don’t have distinct brand clarity tend… Read more

what makes you think you’re so special?

One of my favorite Sopranos moments came in the first season in an exchange between Livia “Sunshine” Soprano and her grandson A.J. Ever the irrepressible optimist, Livia blurts out: “It’s all a big nothing. What makes you think you’re so special.” It’s a question non-profits ask themselves every day, admittedly in less psychotic circumstances. The… Read more

Are you singing or just explaining what singing sounds like?

The famous opera singer Joan Sutherland sang with amazing agility, incredible intonation, and supremely pinpointed staccatos. Critics dissected her voice and technique, but most audiences simply enjoyed the power, emotion and sound they felt when they listened to her majestic voice. To enjoy the music, we don’t have to know all that goes into producing it.… Read more

Just because it works, should we do it?

Those annoying pop-up forms that hover over web content do indeed work to build email lists. Asking your email list for money in an appeal will raise more money than sending a cultivation message. Resending the same e-appeal that someone didn’t open (AKA ignored) the first time will usually yield 1/3 of the original appeal’s results.… Read more