Recently in fundraising oops Category

February 10, 2011

The Groupon Super Bowl Oops

Little did I know that the REALLY Big News from the Big Game would not be the lack of Pepsi ads (as I discussed in my last blog), but the misguided Groupon ads. By now, you've probably seen them twelve times over, but if not, here's where to view their oddly combined, wannabe satirical melding of real causes and flippant consumerist appeals to "Save the Money."

It's a sad tale, because humor invariably involves risk. When someone tries to be funnyChicken Feathered.jpg and fails, it makes the rest of the world --particularly the nonprofit fundraising world, which is already prone to an excess of seriousness -- chicken out (with all due respect to the chicken) and stick to the tearjerker appeals, which can be real yawners.

When done right, humor is a great way to make donors smile -- and then give. But how to do it right? Here's a helpful article, "When Humor Can Be Very Effective in Fundraising Marketing Campaigns," by MP Mueller, for the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

January 4, 2011

Fundraising Oops: The Susan G. Komen Foundation's Use of Donor Funds to Sue Smaller Groups

The Susan G. Komen Foundation has done an admirable job bringing the phrase "For the Cure," and the color pink, into people's consciousness.

Unfortunately, its efforts to stop smaller nonprofit groups from using any similar branding seem less than admirable. According to reports in the The Huffington Post, the Komen folks are spending big bucks (originally, donated money) to sue groups that use the phrase "for the cure," any variations thereof, or even the color pink, in their own marketing efforts.

I predict it's going to backfire, as others echo the sentiments of one nonprofit director facing legal action from the Komen Foundation. She told the The Huffington Post, "They seem to have forgotten what charity is about."

In fact, their protectionist strategy has already backfired, if you believe that Stephen Colbert wields any influence; here's his pithy sendup. Let's hope we see a shift in course from this group soon. 

November 28, 2010

Fundraising Oops of the Week: Dull Opening Sentence

The holiday appeal letters continue to stream in. And here, I'm sad to say, is an opening sentence that was good for an instant yawn:

Right now, hundreds of dogs, cats, puppies, and kittens in our shelters are awaiting adoption into new homes.

What's wrong with it, you ask? I can name at least five reasons that the average reader wouldn't be inspired to read any further.

1) It says nothing new or surprising. Anyone could have written that sentence, with no access to inside information. In fact, it confirms many of our sad suspicions that we're up against some long-term, insoluble problems.

2) It's mind-numbingly general. The word "hundreds" doesn't evoke any images in my mind, and "dogs, cats, puppies, and kittens" sounds more like part of a children's book rhyme than a reference to real animals. Where's the unique story, perhaps of an actual, named animal waiting to be released from its cage into a loving home, or a volunteer who works with them? And while we're at it, what does "our shelters" mean? If it had named the city or neighborhood I live in, I might have felt a greater sense of connection to the issue.

3) It doesn't reach out to the reader. The voice of the writer is completely absent, and there's no reference to a connection with me, the reader. It could have been a public service announcement. (Just a reminder of why many appeal letters are written from "I" or "we" to "you.")

4) It lacks any sense of urgency. Why should I pay attention to this now, rather than later? By the sound of it, the shelters are accustomed to housing these animals.

5) It doesn't give me a reason to believe I can be part of bringing about change in the near future. Dropping another donation into the endless bucket of need isn't very satisfying, and there's ample evidence that the appeals people respond best to are the ones that tell them, "All we need is $X amount today and we can find homes for xx animals tomorrow!"
I don't mean to say that every one of these things should be encompassed within an appeal letter's opening sentence. But if none of them are, that's trouble -- a guaranteed free ride to the recycle bin. But hey, at least it's grammatically accurate!