Whose “needs” are important?
When trying to explain the marketplace perspective and its application to fund-raising, we’re sometimes challenged by those who believe that the high-minded pursuit of philanthropy should not be mixed with the “crass” business of marketing.
For some, marketing is little more than a euphemism for selling, and its practice threatens to cheapen and commercialize the development process. The critics of nonprofit marketing are right to remind us that in the world of philanthropy, we are not selling toothpaste. But that’s precisely why the marketplace perspective is the right approach and mindset for those of us engaged in major gift fund-raising.
Too many organizations still believe that the more they emphasize their institution’s needs – and the more they talk about it – the stronger their appeal for funds will be, and the more money they will raise. This overemphasis on the organization’s needs ignores some basic concepts of effective marketing. When employed, these concepts can significantly advance your fund-raising results.
Adopting the marketplace perspective describes the process of marketing. Effective marketing is the cerebral process of listening to your donor constituents, and working to identify their perspective – their wants, and even their needs. This is contrasted by the more overt activity of solicitation.
Over the years, one of the strategies our firm has used to help clients adopt and maintain a marketplace perspective is to vigilantly change the organization’s use of pronouns. Yes, pronouns! By changing the pronouns that an organization uses in its communications, “we” is no longer used to define the organization, rather “we” is used to present the needs and aspirations of the community and collectively of the organization’s donors.
Adopting the “marketplace perspective” is a conscious mind-set and a continuous operating philosophy that requires listening to your constituency and seeking more and more intelligence about the philanthropic needs of your donors. A philosophy that must be maintained to realize an organization’s full fund-raising potential.
Marketing is a much broader concept and process than the isolated tactic of solicitation and is also a dynamic that focuses on the donor and the potential donor rather than a gift to the organization. While soliciting a gift revolves around the needs and interest of the nonprofit organization, marketing revolves around the donor and their unique perspective of the community and your nonprofit. Successfully marketing your nonprofit institution requires afocus on the whole process of meeting and satisfying the needs of the donor and the community.
Fund-Raising counsel can significantly help organizations identify the perspective and needs of their constituencies. Campaign planning studies, external assessments, research in advance of strategic planning and other approaches are often used to identify and maintain a marketplace perspective.
As a firm, we have the knowledge and expertise to identify when an organization needs to change the way they communicate and interact with their constituents. And, sometimesrepositioning an organization’s internal focus can be quickly accomplished by changing their pronouns.
How are you communicating? Do you use pronouns that originate from the perspective of the marketplace? When you identify the marketplace perspective, you will realize that you are not raising funds — you are inviting investment in causes and projects that many donors are predisposed to support. You’re not making a “pitch,” but looking for common ground and enlisting champions. Executed corrrectly, good marketing is successful fund raising.
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For more on The Marketplace Perspective, A New Approach to the Development of Institutions access, Goettler Series Volume 3