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Are You Targeting the Right Audience?

Fundraising is a specialized skill-set for nonprofit professionals.  There are elements of selling that apply. But as Jeffrey Gittomer tells us in his Little Red Book of Selling (2005, Bard Press) the focus needs to be on the donor “buying,” less on the nonprofit “selling.”  And this is exactly why understanding principles of marketing (simply: a value exchange between two parties) is essential for fundraising success. So nonprofit leaders know who is the target audience, compose messages that resonate and make sense to the audience, seek to form a relationship with the donor, and present brand clarity in communication with prospective donors.  Note that I say “communicate with.” Not communicate “to.”

A person I look to to keep my thinking sharp and in marketing mode is Seth Godin. His blog (simply: Seth’s Blog) http://bit.ly/jrUVFr. Click this link to land on his recent post “Selling Nuts to Squirrels.”  The central point I take away from this (please share your thoughts here once you’ve read it) is: small to mid-size organizations, profit-making or non-profit, need to know and focus on their target audience, i.e. sell nuts to squirrels. If we have the clout of Facebook, we might stand a chance changing the worldview of skeptical audiences to reluctantly come on board because all my friends have joined and I don’t want to be left out. Seth talks about the clout of Starbuck’s: it’s been rather successful (some recent right-sizing required in the face of a shrunk economy) and has shaped worldview of coffee consumers these past two decades.

For those nonprofit leaders among us who aren’t representing Harvard University or American Cancer Society or the Mayo Clinic: we must tailor our expectations, our messaging, our communications about our brand based on the reality of the resources we have to work with. We work at selling nuts to squirrels. Not to dolphins.

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