Friday, June 29, 2007

Causes Vs. Organizations

A new thought has been percolating for some time and I think maybe I can finally articulate what's in my head. Once again, we're seeing that technology is enabling and creating an entirely new set of problems (and opportunities) for non-profit fundraisers.

Once upon a time, donors (or suckers on a list) would get a piece of mail or see a telethon on the telly and be moved to give money. The donor would rarely TELL anyone that they gave money or even that they supported charities. It just wasn't done. To be honest, I'm too young to remember this - but my mom's giving habits suggest that I'm right.

Then, charity walks happened - and person to person fundraising en masse was born. Along with community style campaigns donors needed to also become marketers of the organization and the cause they were raising money for. Fundraisers needed to leverage their contact lists - write letters to their dentist, lawyer and mother-in-law. Eventually, they could e-mail their friends and set up personal fundraising pages that would take online donations from their friends. Socially, telling others what charity you support was built-in to the very mechanism of raising money (this was a big deal because it essentially changed our society's view and would pave the way for what's next).

What's next is what everyone in fundraising is struggling to understand. I belive what's next is a continuation of what we're seeing else where on the Internet - users maintain their control and get to define how they raise money, who they raise money for and who they'll tell.

Here's my hypothesis: While there many, many organizations, there are many, many more causes. And people more often than not raise money for a cause, not for an organization - even if they themselves don't know the difference!

As a marketer though - it's extremely important to know the difference and be able to craft messages, systems and technology to support this phenomenon.

If my theory is right, it would partially explain why Sixdegrees can raise almost $700,000 in less than a year - and why Facebook Causes and are getting so much attention. It's also why sites like have almost 7.4 million registered users.

What we are seeing is a migration in giving that appears to be cause driven as opposed to organization focused. I'm sure to some of you, this is not new news - and in fact for some organizations is actually very old news (Greenpeace comes to mind).

Why is it that seems that no single organization "owns" Global Warming? There certainly are good organizations out there. Am I missing something or are the issues trumping the organizations right now? I even think that this is flowing over into politics - if I care about healthcare (a cause), I'd vote one way. If I think we can win in Iraq (a cause), I'd vote another way - irregardless of the candidate to a large extent.

Am I wrongheaded here? What am I missing?

Another example: look at the screenshot below, taken from Notice that there isn't a single tag that is about a specific organization. Where's "I want to fund American Cancer Society?" It's all causes that are connected to organizations that can get stuff done. But those very organizations have to get very savvy about how they position themsleves in relation to the causes their donors want to support.


From a donor/fundraiser perspective, International Rescue Committee has at least a few dozen "causes" - but in the end, we're not a cause unto itself. The long tail theory would suggest to us if we were paying attention, that we'd better get good at exposing ourselves to different causes - how the work that we do affects that causes that people care about. Literacy, Aids, Poverty, Water sanitation, financial literacy are all examples of "causes" that are within our domain to influence.

I better get back to work.

Agree or disagree, leave a comment.


Thursday, June 28, 2007

Beth Interviewed Me

I did a phone/web interview with Beth of "Beth's Blog" today and it gave me a chance to pause and reflect on how far I've come over the past few years in how I use analytics and statistics to drive business results (not without a lot of help from some friends).

Far too many non-profit marketers look at Google Grants as funny money (I do not) and let their IT folks manage the analytics package. It's a huge mistake.

If you are a marketer, you need to own both of those and use them to test messaging, drive results and optimize your marketing strategies.

If you can wrestle control (and some budget) away from revenue/direct mail and prove that the acquisition costs are dramatically lower, that's a good idea too!

I also love the title she chose for her post - "Does Playing Video Games Make You Smarter about Google AdWords Campaigns? Yes!"

I don't have much time lately, but I'm pretty well hooked on the golf game I got for my kid's Nintendo DS, which I happen to carry with me. Who's DS is it?


Monday, June 25, 2007


My blog wasn't under any sort of updates or maintenance, just didn't publish my index file. I believe the site was offline since last Friday. Yikes!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

New IRC Outdoor Ad Campaign

I wanted to share some images with you from our new outdoor ad campaign. This campaign is running in both Chicago and NYC and kicks off today with World Refugee Day (June 20th).

The ads were developed and refined by Draftfcb, our agency - they did a wonderful job. We've also extended placement with several outdoor media companies who have offered us "free PSA" space to help leverage our reach.

I think these ads are provocative and deliver a nice impact. It's part of the larger strategy we have to raise overall awareness of the International Rescue Committee brand.

If you run across an ad, share it with us on our flickr group.


Friday, June 15, 2007

How Do You Prioritize?

I'm so slammed, I can't even find time to blog. I worked from home yesterday and spent much of the day simply going through lists and digging up e-mails in an attempt to figure out what I SHOULD be focusing and working on.

I made the list a few different ways and finally settled on a pretty good system (I think what I came up with is close to Covey's quadrants, but I can't find my copy of the book, and too busy to look for it).

I made 4 quadrants labeled:

A: Urgent/On Fire
B: Important/High Impact (this is the key area to my success, right Mr. Covey?)
C: Delegate
D: Defer

Surprisingly, the Urgent list wasn't as large as I thought it might be - and the High Impact was chock full of amazing opportunities. I took a moment to circle those 4 or 5 that really stood out - that demanded my attention either because it was on fire (and about to burn me), or because it would have a dramatic impact.

This seemed to work! I now have a list of 2 "A+" items, and a managable handful of "A's". Whew.

Back to work.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Leave the Ivory Tower, Now!

After 5 months of learning, talking and getting up to speed here at International Rescue Committee, I finally got myself out into the field. I visited our San Diego and Phoenix resettlement operations. This post is a sneak preview to the official version that will go up on our blog shortly - but I think for marketing purposes, it's important for me to share it here as well.

"Dreams and Disorientation"

When was the last time you were moved to take action?

This post isn’t intended to get you to take action, or to make a donation to the IRC. But there’s a good chance you just might because you will most certainly be moved, surprised and compelled to, at minimum, learn more about what I’m going to talk about. If I can manage to write what I have in my head you will literally be astounded.

Americans take the “American Dream” for granted. Big time.

For me, growing up in Westchester County, NY, college, a career and a family were only ever a question of time. It’s a given for many Americans that if they work hard they can live the life of their dreams. But to me, the "American Dream" isn’t really “American” – it’s more of a statement about the spirit of ALL human beings and their desire to live the life of their dreams.

I spent a few days last week with our San Diego and Phoenix resettlement offices seeing first-hand how “the dream” works for refugees. These offices are in the business of delivering the "American Dream" on a daily basis.

I bet you haven’t heard about the ’72 Burundians. I hadn’t. They are a group of refugees who fled their homeland in 1972 following a campaign of violence against them by Tutsi-led forces. What happened is sometimes referred to as the first genocide in Africa’s Great Lakes region and -- two decades before the atrocities depicted in “Hotel Rwanda” -- resulted in 200,000 deaths and triggered the flight of some 150,000 refugees to camps in Tanzania, Rwanda and Congo.

These folks have lived in refugee camps for 35 years. Two generations of people growing up in refugee camps. The government of Tanzania has made it clear that it doesn’t want them to settle permanently – but isn’t 35 years of living somewhere “permanent?”

What if you were kicked out of your house and run off to a foreign country – then after 35 years told to leave?

As for “the dream” - I have to give pause and wonder to myself how these people had any hope at all for a better life.

I met Augustine and his beautiful family (his wife and 3 young boys) as part of my tour of the Phoenix resettlement office. Resettled refugees like Augustine typically travel for up to 4 or 5 days to get from their camp to the United States. Our trip to Augustine’s house was the IRC’s “24 hour” visit – a chance for staff to check in on the family and answer any additional questions they may have.

Before my visit, I could only guess at how confused and disoriented refugees like Augustine must feel when they first arrive. But then the reality of his experience started to sink in. It was confusing and disturbing to me on so many levels:

Augustine grew up in a refugee camp and doesn’t know what an air conditioner is, or butter for that matter. He asked us what a bag of pasta was for – he held up a box of Pop Tarts and with a look of hope and confusion listened while we told him it was a breakfast food, sort of like bread with fruit inside. But Augustine now finds himself in a furnished apartment, with an opportunity for education and a job--and, of course, Pop Tarts and Cheerios. Thanks to the IRC, he's standing on the doorstep of "the dream."

In my eyes, Augustine is a hero – he is a man that I can only bow down to and honor. He has survived something that for any American is completely inconceivable. He is raising his family amid all kinds of upheaval, he speaks 5 languages and he has found a way to build a better life for them. I’m in awe.

Later that evening, I decided to go along with IRC staff to the airport to pick up another set of incoming Burundians who had been traveling for 5 days. At 11:16, a group of African men wearing standard issue gray shirts, blue pants and basic sneakers came walking down towards us, their eyes bleary, holding on to their IOM issued bags with their papers – their permission slips to "the dream."

As we stood around baggage claim, communicating in smiles and gestures, we soon learned that 3 of their 5 bags had been “lost” by the airlines. Americans get upset when they lose a bag with their pool toys and bathing suits. These folks lost bags with everything they own in them. The airline representative made us fill out forms and told us to call in 24 to 48 hours. Welcome to America!

Imagine if you packed your house to move cross-country, and the moving truck got into a wreck that destroyed everything inside.

I can imagine it – and it’s just horrible. But the newly arrived refugees just smiled. One of them picked up a copy of USA Today (he speaks no English at all) and found the weather map. He was looking intently at it and I leaned over to see if I could help him make sense of things. He pointed to Arizona and smiled. I pointed out New York and made an airplane motion with my hands - I think he understood me perfectly well.