This transcript is from the December 12, 2018 Independent Sector & Prosper Strategies webinar, “The Nonprofit Marketing Revolution.” Listen to the full webinar recording here.
Alyssa Conrardy: In this webinar, we’ll learn how our guest Brian Frederick turned a viral campaign into sustained marketing to help propel the mission of the ALS Association.
We all, as nonprofit leaders and marketers and people who work within the nonprofit sector, were inspired years ago by the Ice Bucket Challenge. But several years have passed since then! Now, we want a sense of how the association has evolved, and how a campaign that was so successful and viral has turned into long-term, sustained marketing success.
Earlier this year, we published our Nonprofit Marketing Manifesto, where we laid out our vision for the new future of nonprofit marketing. We believe that the nonprofit sector is on the cusp of a marketing revolution. The sector has thought far too small about marketing for far too long for several reasons, some of which are inside our control and some that are outside of it. We also believe marketing can –– and should –– be integrated in every goal that your nonprofit sets, and when that happens, marketing becomes a tool for mission impact and social change. Today, we’re so excited to kick off this series to talk more about that, and just begin to scratch the surface with some great insights from Brian and Robert.
- Why the nonprofit sector needs a marketing revolution
- A new definition of nonprofit marketing
- 10 commitments savvy nonprofits are making to elevate marketing
- Commitment overview
- Commitment questions with Brian Frederick
- Ways to go deeper
- Attendee Q&A, moderated by Alyssa Conrardy
We’ll continue as we embark on this 13-webinar series where we’ll dig in deeper to each of the commitments in the Nonprofit Marketing Manifesto. Today will be an introduction of each commitment, and for each, we have one or two questions for Brian where he’ll give us a sense of how the ALS Association is making or aiming to make that commitment following the Ice Bucket Challenge.
The nonprofit sector needs a marketing revolution.
We’re passionate about the idea that it’s time to change the way the nonprofit sector thinks about marketing. Just like Dan Pelota and so many others have aimed to change the way we think about overhead, we’d like to change the way we think about marketing and communicating our missions, and driving those missions forward through the powerful tool of marketing. Here’s why:
The world we operate in has more needs than ever.
Organizations are likely asked to do more with less. Cuts to federal and state-run services are leaving more people hungry and homeless or unable to meet their basic needs, and that more people are turning to the nonprofit sector for help.
There is more competition for less money.
We often don’t like to talk about competition in the nonprofit sector, but the fact remains that cuts to government grants have decreased the total pool of money available to nonprofit organizations, while at the same time, new nonprofits are launching at a record pace. We’ve seen an over 40 percent growth in the nonprofit sector since the 1990s. So, standing out and differentiating yourself, whether you’re talking about competition or collaboration, is becoming more difficult than ever.
Donors are disappearing.
Total charitable giving may be on the incline, but the total number of donors is actually on the decline. New tax laws and additional regulations, in many cases, are discouraging charitable giving, so the steady stream of private donations that organizations have relied on for a long time is going to begin shrinking if it hasn’t already. If you feel your donors are disappearing or are concerned they’re going to, you’re certainly not alone.
Millennials are unpredictable.
Millennials are officially entering the scene when it comes to supporting nonprofits, but we’re all still trying to figure out how they’re going to give, where they’ll give, and how we can compel them to have loyalty to our organizations. We know millennials have nearly unlimited options for social investment, including everything from crowdfunding campaigns for their friends’ medical expenses to venture philanthropy funds that support the social enterprise space. So, when millennials enter the picture (as they already are), the already highly competitive space we’re all working in becomes even more difficult to navigate for most organizations.
Marketing can be part of the solution.
And it’s often underrecognized. We believe marketing can and should play a role in every goal that you set in your nonprofit, including:
- Introducing new programs and services
- Recruiting staff and volunteers
- Advocating for policy change
- Educating stakeholders about key issues
- Driving behavior change
- Building partnerships
- And more
If there’s a goal in your strategic plan that marketing can’t address in some way, we’d be surprised! We truly believe that, in some shape or form, marketing should play a role in advancing every goal you set.
A new definition for nonprofit marketing
In order to start thinking about marketing that way, we believe we need a new definition for nonprofit marketing. We’d like to propose this one:
Definition: Nonprofit marketing [noun]
Nonprofit marketing comprises the activities, touchpoints, and messages that motivate stakeholders to take actions that advance a nonprofit’s mission and create sustainable social change.
If you enjoy looking up definitions for words about what you do, you’ve probably found that every definition for marketing is focused on driving revenue and corporate sector marketing activities. While revenue is, of course, important for what we do, it’s only part of the picture. We’re driving that revenue for a deeper goal of creating social change and advancing our missions.
As we enter into this series, I’d like to challenge us all to think about marketing a bit broader and deeper, and not just think about it as awareness, fundraising and driving revenue, but as a tool for mission advancement and social change. It really is time to begin thinking bigger about nonprofit marketing. It’s time to make that commitment. I hope today is the start, for many of you, of making that commitment and finding ways to pursue marketing at every level of your organization and in every part of your strategic plan.
Before we dive into the 10 commitments your organization should make, we want to remind you that all of these commitments are detailed in a piece we published earlier this year called the Nonprofit Marketing Manifesto. We feel all of you can (and should!) make these commitments to begin thinking bigger about nonprofit marketing.
Q&A with Alyssa Conrardy, Prosper Strategies and Brian Frederick, ALS Association
10 commitments savvy nonprofits are marketing to elevate marketing
Commitment #1: We will recognize marketing as a tool for driving social change.
This is the biggest, broadest, and most far-reaching commitment. When we say this, we mean your organization should acknowledge that, when leveraged properly by nonprofits like yours, marketing is truly capable of changing the world. Any dialogue you’ve had about marketing being a nice-to-have or how if you had more budget you could consider marketing is small thinking. That’s not enough to drive your mission forward. Acknowledge that marketing is essential to the work you’re doing and the reason you show up to work at your organization every single day.
Conrardy: The ALS Association really got “on the map” from a marketing perspective during the Ice Bucket Challenge. Tell us more about how you made the challenge into more than just an awareness tool and used it to drive the Association’s goals forward, even after it was over.
Brian Frederick: We were in a very unique position in that the Ice Bucket Challenge wasn’t created by us, it was something that organically came about within the community. Folks may not realize that it wasn’t even about ALS at first! There were a bunch of cold water challenges going around where you could make it for any charity of your choice, but because of a couple guys with ALS and their networks, it started to crystallize around ALS.
Here at the association, I was brought in as a consultant to help at the time. I stressed that no matter what, this was the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Every instance that we mention it in the media, emphasize that it’s the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. We really tried to drive this point that it was not just the Ice Bucket Challenge, but it was the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, and I think that eventually took hold.
It raised awareness of a disease that many people previously had no knowledge of or connection to. It’s a rare disease: Only about 20,000 people in the US have ALS. What we did was try to use [the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge] to shed light on this disease in a new way for people. Over the course of interviews and satellite media tours with our CEO and founders, as we call them, of the Ice Bucket Challenge, we really tried to advance this cause and advance the mission as opposed to just focusing on the Challenge itself and how much money was being raised.
In the next year, we were faced with the question of: “what do we do now?” Obviously we had this amazing moment in history, so what do we do next? We convened a number of different stakeholders, particularly people with ALS and their caregivers, members of our board, etc., and many of those people had ideas about different Challenges we could do. They kept coming back to the fact that we were defined by the Ice Bucket Challenge, so we could really move away from that without losing all it brought.
We tried to do it again in a campaign with every Major League Baseball baseball team. The founders kicked it off and we got other ALS organizations together and tried to launch it again so it would become an annual event. If it could become an annual event like Movember or Girl Scout cookies, it could be something that would benefit ALS for the long term. But I think enough folks had sort of moved on and thought it was a one-time thing that there was some consumer confusion. It certainly raised a little bit of money, but not what we were hoping for.
Then, we pivoted and decided to focus on the disease as a historical moment in time. We created a campaign called “Every Drop Adds Up” which was a platform that enabled us to say we all came together and worked together, did this amazing thing called the Ice Bucket Challenge and that made a difference. It’s proof that every little thing adds up: Every gene adds up. Every walk. Every step. Every dollar adds up. That’s what we’ve used since, and it seems to have served us well.
Conrardy: Do you find that people still reference the Ice Bucket Challenge frequently as the way they came into contact with the ALS Association and your mission?
Frederick: Yes, absolutely, without a doubt.
Conrardy: It’s great to hear even though it wasn’t able to become an annual effort, you were able to use an awareness-building campaign as a springboard into something bigger and a deeper conversation.
Commitment #2: We will develop a strong brand image and identity in alignment with our mission and values.
Brand image is what you look like on the outside to the world, and identity is what you believe you stand for internally. So, this commitment asks us to recognize that our brands are the keys that unlock our mission and values for our stakeholders, and treat them accordingly. So, we must give our brands that elevation in our organization, and the important they deserve.
Here, we’ll get a little deeper into what this looks like in the post-Ice Bucket Challenge world of ALS Association.
Conrardy: How does the ALS Association’s brand image and identity reflect your mission and values?
Frederick: It has definitely evolved. One of the things that I and our board have been driving, is to focus on the ALS part of our name, and not so much the association. Let’s put some emphasis on the disease rather than the organization. Here [at the ALS Association], we have a three-prong mission, which is research, care services, and advocacy. This is as opposed to some organizations, which may just focus on research or advocacy. We think that all three of these parts are critical to finding a cure. As a result, we stress that we find ALS on every front. That’s what our brand image and identity is: that we’re fighting ALS on every front.
- For our research program, we say that we don’t just have a research program, but we have the premier global research program in the world. We fund the best research anywhere in the world, and we’re not just one lab, we’re a series of labs. We’re everybody in those labs.
- For care, we’re able to provide a much bigger footprint (especially since the Ice Bucket Challenge) and serve more people with ALS than we ever have been before.
- From an advocacy perspective, we point to the legislative wins that we’ve been able to achieve, and how we’ve been able to leverage the Ice Bucket dollars to increase federal level. If you look at our research spending over time, NIH and DOD have increased.
So, all of these things came together with this three-prong mission we have, our full mission as we’ll call it, to drive a much stronger brand.
Conrardy: Did you feel that the success of the Ice Bucket Challenge helped others at your organization at the leadership level or elsewhere –– on your board –– understand in a deeper way the important of your brand, and the fact that brand and marketing were important?
Frederick: Yes, definitely. I think it also helped them understand the full scope of our work and the size of our organization. We’re a federated model where we have 39 different independent chapters that make up our organization. So, rather than each of those independent chapters doing their own thing and occasionally meeting once or twice a year as a large body, [the Ice Bucket Challenge] helped the organization see that we are one organization with one mission, and we need to be focused on that mission and advancing it rather than what each individual piece needs or wants. We’re much greater than the sum of our parts. That’s been the real legacy of the Ice Bucket Challenge.
Commitment #3: We will build cohesion internally and communicate with consistency externally.
This gets at a problem we see frequently in nonprofit organizations where there’s inconsistent messaging from the very start, because everyone within our organizations has their own way of talking about what we do. There’s not a real consistent message or a real foundational message that runs through everything we talk about. So, when we make this commitment, we’re saying that we will recognize that in order to advance our missions, we must build trust. To build trust, there must be consistency between how we see ourselves internally, how we act, and how we represent ourselves externally.
Conrardy: What have you done to get ALS staff, board members and volunteers on the same page about your brand image and identity? How do you ensure they’re consistent in how they communicate and yet still feel empowered to personalize what they say?
Frederick: I think what we do is what probably many of the folks listening do, which is to put together a strategic communications and marketing plan that aligns with the overall strategic plan of the organization. Of course, we influence the communications part of that strategic plan, but we have a much more detailed strategic communications and marketing plan that we share internally with all of our various stakeholders, and we focus on various parts of it. I expect that our chapter communicators who do this marketing and communications work know this plan top to bottom, but for our board members I focus on the high-level talking points and framing when I want to speak to them about it.
We really work with our chapters and our volunteers to help them understand exactly how we want to message and frame our organization and, at the same time, we solicit feedback and get ideas from them. As I mentioned, we’re a federated model, so we have 39 chapters, and many of them want to frame things in their own way. We appreciate that and want to encourage that because sometimes that leads to the best source of ideas and communications, but at times it’s challenging too because we may occasionally disagree with how they want to frame things. We have a style guide and brand guide and we have to flag things from time to time, but not usually.
We are in a period of transition right now, and by placing more focus on the disease, ALS, that’s going to be a challenge for some parts of our organization who have wrapped up their brand identity within their particular chapter, efforts, or initiatives. Helping people see the cause itself and the disease is the most important thing we need to get folks thinking about.
Conrardy: Who created your marketing plan and brand style guide? Was it created by your department, Brian, did you have a marketing firm work with you on it, and did you engage your board at all?
Frederick: I usually take the first cut at drafting it with my immediate communications team, then begin to seek input on it from the chapters and from the board. We have a development and communications committee that I share things with, although it tends to get a bit granular. So, I try to get the development and communications committee at a much higher level to focus on what our overall, top-level messaging is. For something like the brand style guide or the strategic marketing plan, I usually “bake it” at about 80 percent and then have others folks help contribute to finish it off, and tweak it so it’s where it needs to be. I think folks appreciate when you take the first cut at things so they can respond rather than creating it from whole cloth.
Conrardy: That’s you owning your expertise and seeking input where it matters and doing so in a way that makes people feel engaged, but not that they have too much control over an area that’s not necessarily within their expertise or is the best and highest use of their time. I think that’s an important balance to strike. You don’t want to get to a point where you’re managing marketing by committee, but at the same time, one of the biggest challenges that we see is needing to advance a strategic marketing plan. Or, if there’s a rebrand or brand messaging initiative, lack of buy-in from internal stakeholders.
I think it’s great to hear from everyone here, Brian, just how you’re engaging people on the fact that you’re bringing something that’s mostly baked, but still gathering that input in a way that makes people feel engaged and like they can probably positively impact your own product.
Commitment #4: We will treat all of our stakeholders as brand ambassadors.
We will recognize that every person our organizations interact with has the potential to amplify our brands, our missions and our impact. This is within our organizations, and in some cases, outside of our organizations as well. The clients and beneficiaries we interact with through our organizations are also brand ambassadors.
Conrardy: The viral nature of the Ice Bucket Challenge is a great example of the power of a contagious, viral idea, but it’s likely that not everyone who participated actually understood the work you’re doing to fight ALS or continued to advocate for that work after the campaign was over. What do you do to turn true supporters (in that campaign and outside of it) into brand ambassadors?
Frederick: We saw that many people who did the Ice Bucket Challenge did not understand what ALS is or anything about it. I’m actually less concerned about the ALS Association brand, and I’m more interested in the ALS brand. I think a lot of folks don’t even see the difference. Oftentimes, I tell my friends about some other ALS organization and they’re like “what, there’s another ALS organization, why?” And I say well, yes, there are actually ten different ALS organizations and they’re on different missions and they’re all doing great work. I’m less interested in focusing on our organization and our name than I am on trying to advance the cause of ALS and the brand of ALS, and taking ALS and branding it as a disease is where my current work is. I want people to care about the disease, and not necessarily care as much about our organization, because I know if people care about the disease, then the organization will follow.
So, we have a couple campaigns coming out right now that focus on ALS and not necessarily the Association. For the people that took the Ice Bucket Challenge, it really means educating them about the disease and the impact of the Ice Bucket Challenge. We’re about to launch a PSA campaign with a prominent celebrity who will remind people of the Ice Bucket Challenge and that their donations had an impact. That will be the start of educating folks looking back about how everybody came together and made a difference. That’s what we’re doing over the course of the next several months.
Conrardy: That’s really interesting and I think the perfect way to underscore that point about marketing being about more than just raising awareness of your organization, thinking about that next level of mission impact, and if ALS has the awareness that you’re hoping for in the future, people understand ALS and are committed to the cause of finding a cure. That can only help your organization advance its goals.
Commitment #5: We will develop a marketing plan that aligns with our strategic plan and recognize that marketing can impact every single one of our strategic goals.
This is the commitment where we say we will stop developing our marketing and communications plans in a vacuum, and instead make marketing planning an integral part of strategic planning. This is one of the most integral commitments in our manifesto. If this one is not followed through on, I think it’s very difficult to advance any other commitments.
Conrardy: What are some of the goals in the ALS Association’s strategic plan, beyond raising awareness, that marketing plays a role in addressing? I’d love to hear how you’re thinking about integrating marketing at that higher level to the association’s broader goals.
Frederick: Obviously I can’t go through the whole strategic plan, but I can give you a couple examples of how we, as an organization, have really moved from a much more siloed organization where research, care services and advocacy all did their own things and were their own arms. They even had their own communications platforms and messaging. I came in just after the Ice Bucket Challenge and I looked at it and said wait, so our policy people have their own Twitter and they’re doing their own things from our care services people and our research people. I immediately put a stop to that and said we need to integrate all of our messaging. We need to think about our mission as being integrated. Our branding about our organization has to be about this importance of the three-legged stool and not just about any individual piece. We’ve done that through the last few years.
We also really wanted to improve the marketing within those particular mission areas. We just finished with our research program, a project where we gave a grant to an individual to research kids as caregivers because not a lot of people realize kids end up serving as caregivers for their parents with ALS. It’s obviously a very difficult and heavy situation for them because now they’re caring for their dying parent. And given that we’re a rare disease, we usually don’t have anybody else to speak with. So, this researcher spoke with them about what sort of things they say, and how they process this and how they learn from it. We then took those findings and turned them into a series of illustrated guides called “Kids Talk About ALS.” We found a Marvel comic illustrator to do the drawings, and all the language is directly from what the kids said. Then, we worked with an agency to build a web-based version of the guides. So, from the beginning, the communications and marketing team was part of this process and I think they crossed from this grant that research had given to this professor to care services and what they’re doing, so now we have this platform for kids we didn’t have before. That’s because of the way communications and marketing put everything together in a nice package, and I hope that’s why it will be successful, and we’re excited to roll those out.
I’m sure many of the folks listening are doing peer-to-peer fundraising and have walks. For us, our Walk to Defeat ALS program is our biggest fundraising platform. Our chapters sometimes have multiple walks, and I think we have around 150 to 200 walks a year. As great as walk days are –– they’re my favorite, you go and interact with everybody with ALS and their family and their caregivers and their supporters and it’s just so fun –– what was missing was this core mission element. So, we created something called Unlock ALS, and the idea is that you try to find a key to unlock this mysterious disease that literally locks a person in their body. We created Unlock ALS and now people at the walks have lanyards with keys around their neck that are color-coded based on what their connection to the disease is. There’s a ceremony where they present keys to people, there are pin-ups where people can sign their keys to a certain loved one, and we’ve received a great response to that. Everybody loved this element of our walks. It’s taken the walks from being just a fundraising and awareness day to something that helps advance our mission. That’s just another example of how we try and insert ourselves as much as we can to help our different mission areas advance their goals.
Conrardy: Those are both such great examples. I wish we had another hour to hear a bunch more and I hope this is as inspiring to others on the line as it is to me. This is exactly what we’re going for when we talk about aligning your marketing efforts with the goals in your strategic plan and with your mission. Of course, a fun awareness-building campaign is fantastic, but if it’s not aligned with the most important things you aim to achieve and that mission you hope to advance, it’s just a fun campaign. I love hearing how Brian ties this all back to the why behind these efforts and initiatives. Really fascinating.
We got through five of the 10 commitments, so hopefully your appetite is whetted a bit for the rest of the commitments to come. As I mentioned, we will be featuring each one of the commitments in a deeper way through our series of 13 webinars. Just to give you a bit of a preview, the other commitments we’ll be talking about through the year are:
Commitment #6: We will invest properly in marketing and view it as core mission support, not overhead.
I know a lot of you are probably frustrated within your own organizations about getting the budget you need to be effective from a marketing perspective and doing marketing as mission support, not just overhead.
Commitment #7: We will ensure marketing is overseen at the highest level of our organizations and contributed to by everyone on our teams.
Ideally, marketing should be overseen within your C-suite if you’re large enough, but even as marketing elevates within your organization, you don’t lose the ability for everyone to contribute to marketing success.
Commitment #8: We will use our brands and marketing to build partnerships and advance the broader causes we’re focused on.
It’s so important, as we see success in small ways through one-off campaigns, for us to leverage the brand we’ve been building to create deeper partnerships and have an asset that others want to invest in.
Commitment #9: We will avoid, at all costs, sacrificing the dignity of those we serve for the sake of our marketing and communications goals.
This is one of my favorite commitments. When we get into this commitment down the road later this year in our webinar series, we’ll be talking about this idea of poverty porn and stereotype porn and all their close cousins and the risk they can have of really harming the people that you aim to help.
Commitment #10: We will measure the impact of marketing on our missions and continually optimize our efforts to drive more social change.
Here, we’ll talk about seeing what’s working and making efforts to improve our marketing based on what we’re learning from a metrics perspective.
Ways to go deeper
I want to share a couple ways that you can get in deeper with Prosper Strategies and our thought partners at Independent Sector, ALS Association and other future guests on starting your own marketing revolution.
- Sign up for the rest of our webinar series here.
- Apply to the Nonprofit Marketing Revolutionaries Mastermind Program here.
The Mastermind is an opportunity for you to work with a small group of 12 other nonprofit marketers and leaders to bring these commitments through within your organizations. Each month, we’ll be having some open discussions about the commitment of the month, following the same track as this webinar series. Each person within the small Mastermind group will be introducing a challenge they’re facing at their organization and we’ll all workshop and think through solutions to that challenge as a group. Feel free to email Alyssa at email@example.com questions about what the group will look like. We’re shaping a couple different groups so we can have organizations of similar size and mission area grouped together. Please apply by December 21st for full consideration.
- Real the full Nonprofit Marketing Manifesto here.
Let’s discuss some of the questions in the chat and allow Brian to share a few more thoughts with us.
Conrardy: What advice would you give to people who are essentially one-man bands terms of trying to elevate their strategic marketing?
Frederick: That’s an excellent question. I can say that I have been in that position before where I’ve been a one-man band trying to advance new campaigns and new ideas and get my board to a certain place. I think, off the top of my head, it really just depends on involving more people within your immediate circle. I realize you’re looking for a better answer than that, but you can have the best marketing and strategic plan and you can have the best ideas, but if you don’t have folks to have a dialogue and exchange of ideas with, you’re in a really challenging position. I’m not sure if the listeners who are working for smaller nonprofits with one base type member have boards that they can rely on, but that certainly is a place to start. Really, it’s peer groups and strong committees. I often use an informal committee. I have a panel of people with ALS, their caregivers and communications professionals on an email list and I float ideas and engage in conversation with them. You get what you pay for sometimes in terms of participation, and sometimes people don’t participate. But other times, it sparks a good conversation that advances where we need to be. I would encourage folks to expand their immediate inner circle of people that they can discuss things with on a daily basis. If not, I would encourage some kind of peer groups.
Conrardy: Going back to when you were talking, Brian, about branding the disease versus the organization, Gabriella says that “I agree that we all have the same end goal of raising awareness for the cause, but what if as a small nonprofit, people confuse your organization with another much larger one? For example, people start fundraisers where thousands of dollars in donations are unknowingly donated toward the international organization, leaving local organizations struggling to meet their donation goals. We struggle with people confusing our small local brand with a large international organization that we receive funding from.”
I’ve heard this problem before. Brian, I’ll think about my response and I’m curious if you have any thoughts.
Frederick: This is a really excellent question. It’s a general question without knowing the details of the organization, but are your particular goals, and is your mission very closely aligned with this other international organization, or are you doing something completely different and it’s just for the same cause? If you’re very closely aligned and this just happens to be a much bigger organization, then it seems to me that “local” is your point of differentiation. So, the most important thing for you to do is to define what that point of differentiation is and what those differentiators are.
For instance, we have a smaller organization in the ALS space that is a research lab and they’re very good at portraying and presenting themselves as really intensely focused on the research. Their sole goal is to focus on the research, so that differentiates them from us. While we, as I said, have a three-prong mission, so in the minds of some people, we’re not as engaged on the research as we should be. That isn’t true, but I give them credit for doing that.
I think in your situation, if you can find what that is that you’re doing that’s uniquely different and then focus on that, that could be better. I know these days with search engine optimization and marketing, you’re able to very specifically focus on your core target market and define those parameters so you’re only marketing to the people you need to be marketing to. That’s obviously easier said than done, but if you can focus on your core audience and message that explicitly differentiates yourself from this other organization, the more you can establish your own identity.
Conrardy: I think the only thing I would suggest is, depending on how the international organization’s mission is different from yours, and if you have an existing relationship with them or are able to build one, I might try to get in touch with someone there and discuss with them the challenges you’re having. Brainstorm with them where they want to play, where you want to play, and what you could each do to send your stakeholders in the right direction so they’re putting their dollars and their support to the most effective place, whether that’s the unique area where you focus your intention, or where the international organization focuses their attention. I highly doubt your missions are exactly the same, so find that point of difference and hopefully try to partner on how to send people in the right direction.
Our next question asks, “How did you get the local chapters on board with the Ice Bucket Challenge campaign? Was there broad support and participation across all chapters, and was that an important element for your success in that campaign, or was it secondary?”
Frederick: I’m going to distinguish between Ice Bucket 1 –– the original Ice Bucket –– and the second attempt, Ice Bucket 2. As I said, the first Ice Bucket challenge was organic, and, as a result, we didn’t really need to get the local chapters on board, but the chapters came along with everybody else. What we immediately did was, once it started to take hold, particularly in Boston, we immediately messaged out to the rest of the community that this thing is happening and we really want everybody to get behind it. We never really got out in front of it, but we were behind the scenes fanning the flames to try and help keep the momentum going. We messaged that this is something good to participate in.
Both with the first and second attempt, when we very explicitly said we needed everybody to try to make sure we could make it an annual thing and have everybody come along, we came up against chapters who were concerned about their walk revenue. I suspect many of you would be if there was a new big campaign that people donated to, there would be confusion and and suddenly walk revenue would go down. We tried to stress that yes, nobody wants to mess with the walk, which is a great fundraising platform, but at the same time, if we don’t get out of the mindset that “Walk to Defeat ALS” drives all of fundraising, we’re never going to get out of the cycle of just focusing on people who have a connection to the disease and their supporters. We have to think bigger and try to draw in new supporters who don’t have a connection to ALS. Walks aren’t going to do that because walks are peer-to-peer fundraising. So, we have to figure out how do we make a connection to people that aren’t going to end up at a walk. The way to do that is to get everybody that’s doing walks and everybody that’s already a supporter to engage in another action or to participate in some other campaign to transition people from being walk donors and supporters to being supporters of the whole mission and the cause itself.
That’s definitely a challenge, but I think it’s critical for organizations. If you’re very young and a small organization that absolutely must have the walk revenue or the fundraising revenue that you depend on come in year to year, maybe now’s not the best time to start new campaigns. Instead, see if you can grow and build on what you have. We were in a position where we had a significant source of funds and we could start to look at how we expand this beyond what we’ve been doing in the past and do something new.
Are you ready to amplify your organization’s impact in 2019?
Apply to our Nonprofit Marketing Revolutionaries Mastermind Program for the opportunity to work your way through the 10 Commitments in the Nonprofit Marketing Manifesto with a small group of revolutionary nonprofit leaders. Please apply by December 21st for full consideration.