Jan 07, 2011

Not Every Nonprofit Needs to Issue a Calendar!

I had no idea how many nonprofits were sending 2011 calendars to their donors until I saw the pile on Nolo's conference table, free for the taking. Many of them were supplied by the relative of a staffperson, who is apparently very generous to charity -- but perhaps hasn't gotten the memo about how you're more likely to make a difference by focusing your gifts on a select few groups, rather than giving a little to each one, thus prompting all of them to follow up with endless and expensive mailings.

In any case, looking at the array of calendars, and at which ones got snapped up first to grace people's walls, has led me to a few conclusions:

1) Too many calendars! Many groups are wasting their money, producing calendars that will only compete with other groups' calendars, and possibly end up in the recycle bin. Each donor has only so much wall space, and is going to choose carefully which images to look at every day. Sure, maybe some people will pass the calendars on to friends, thereby increasing the nonprofit's visibility, but given  the pile of "No one wants 'em" leftovers on that table, I wouldn't count on it.

2) Depressing images don't sell. There's a calendar sitting there from a veterans' memorial group, where each month's photo features a flag-draped coffin or a grieving relative. Are these photos important and relevant for people to see? Yes. Might they work in a newsletter or as Facebook entries? Absolutely. But I have trouble imagining who would, given a choice between a calendar with cute puppies or the one with coffins, choose the latter.

3) Photos of clients' faces don't sell well, either. This one's a little harder to explain, but it's clear that calendar choosers aren't drawn to looking at the faces of anonymous people being served by a nonprofit. Maybe it's because you have to read the text to "get" what's going on, or maybe it seems unfair to have this face take up a lot more wall space than photos of one's kids or grandkids. In any case, the cute puppies are clearly winning out again.

What does sell? Animal and nature photos are the big winners. I snagged a calendar from the California State Parks Foundation, where each month features a beautiful photo of a park -- allowing me to imagine, or actually plan, which parks to visit next. It will replace the calendar I picked up last year, by a nonprofit that serves kids with cancer -- but chose to feature photo of birds each month. It's not entirely logical, but I put it on my wall! Happy 2011 to all . . . .