If your non-profit raises awareness and funds for a cause that makes people uncomfortable, it can be very difficult to find the right approach. You have to reach the hearts of people, but you can’t upset them to the point where they turn away. Use sensitivity in your social media and email marketing to engage folks and encourage them to listen to your story.
Your organization is doing incredible work that probably takes a heavy toll on your emotions. Whether you are working to stop animal cruelty, raise awareness of poverty or abuse issues in society or raise funds for the cure for a devastating disease, it’s a challenge to find the right balance in your campaigns.
We all need to do our part and your organization is making an important contribution to society, but how do you get people on board? How explicit do you get in your marketing efforts?
It can all be explained in two words – Sarah McLachlan. I don’t know about you, but when I hear the first bars of Sarah’s song “Angel”, which is a beautiful and touching song in its own right, I immediately think of abused animals.
Was it successful? Hell, yes! The ad raised more than $30 million and broke records in the non-profit world. It also spawned dozens of parodies – just look on YouTube.
The reason we make fun of such sensitive matters is because it makes us uncomfortable. In fact, someone made a spoof video about Sarah’s ad showing how we really feel.
On PETA’s website, they claim that don’t have the marketing budget that big corporations do and they have to take advantage of the media for free advertising. “It is sometimes necessary to shake people up in order to initiate discussion, debate, questioning of the status quo, and, of course, action.”
Does it work? You’ve heard of PETA, right? We all have, but have you donated money? Have you clicked on to their website and watched video after video of unimaginable animal suffering? Have you stopped eating meat? PETA claims to have over three million members and supporters around the world. They have made strides in raising awareness of cruel factory farming practices and animal testing. Would they have been as successful if they had Sarah McLachlan singing her sad song?
The Center for Consumer Freedom has waged a number of campaigns against PETA’s tactics. This non-profit organization says it is dedicated to protecting consumer choices, but it has its own agenda. The group lobbies on behalf of some huge corporations in the fast food, tobacco and alcohol industries.
Non-profits that attempt to manipulate people through the use of cognitive dissonance may be successful in raising their profile, but they don’t endear their cause to the public.
The ASPCA had that going for it, despite the parodies. Sarah McLachlan’s sweet song evokes emotions and is often used for that reason in movies and fundraising events for natural disasters or other tragedies.
You may not have the luxury of a hit song to use in your fundraising, but you can use these examples to determine the route you want to take in your social media, email marketing or YouTube videos.
Unless you are a radical organization, you probably want to take the more sensitive approach. Whatever your cause, you can find a way to share your charity or non-profit goals with the public without resorting to negative emotional manipulation. An email marketing newsletter is one way to do this. For the most part, you don’t have to use shock tactics or share disturbing images, although sometimes that is necessary. If you are raising funds for children dying of starvation in third world countries, it may help to show the children you are doing this for. It’s worked for many other charitable foundations.
Just remember that people who give money or their time for a cause ultimately want to feel good about what they are helping you to achieve. Show your successes and make your message one of hope. Be genuine and people will respond.