“Our donors” and channel conflict

According to psychological studies, human territoriality is a multifaceted concept that includes physical space, possession, defense, exclusiveness of use, markers, and personalization.   

giphyI think of Milton from Office Space.  He possesses his personalized red stapler in his tiny cubicle fortress than he does not want to leave and eventually fights to defend. 

How often are we like this with our donors?

Even the phrase “our donors” is illusory.  A donor no more belongs to your organization than I belong to Google just because I am dependent on their search engine and mail programs for even the most basic forms of knowledge seeking and human interactions, respectively.

OK, bad example.  But you get the idea.

A donor doesn’t really belong to your organization; they are free to leave at any time (and frequently do).  

And they certainly don’t belong to any one aspect of your organization.

Yet we aim to possess donors, erect walls for their defense from other types of fundraisers, even mark our territory on them.

The thing that got me thinking about this is Joshua Benton’s excellent piece with NiemanLab about NPR’s decision not to promote the NPR One app or its podcasts on its terrestrial radio stations. 

They will not ask for any downloads or mention podcast hosts in a way that would be seen as an endorsement.

Part of this is understandable.  Radio stations pay the bulk of NPR’s bills.  These stations want to hold on to their share of ear and make sure that people listen to radio stations.  They exert pressure; NPR folds.

But this feels very much like the classic Theodore Levitt article about Marketing Myopia:

 

The railroads did not stop growing because the need for passenger and freight transportation declined. That grew. The railroads are in trouble today not because that need was filled by others (cars, trucks, airplanes, and even telephones) but because it was not filled by the railroads themselves. They let others take customers away from them because they assumed themselves to be in the railroad business rather than in the transportation business. The reason they defined their industry incorrectly was that they were railroad oriented instead of transportation oriented; they were product oriented instead of customer oriented…

 

OK, a virtual show of hands.  Who thinks that NPR’s long-term future is in traditional radio-wave-based radio?  OK…  OK… thanks.  Hands down.  

Now who thinks their long-term future is in online radio, podcast, and things we haven’t even thought of yet?  OK… OK… keep them up… there are a lot of you to count…

Yep.  Exactly.  Yet because of territoriality, they mortgage the future for the present.

So what business is NPR in?  Are they in the radio business?  Or are they in the informational (or entertainment or thought-provoking) business?

The same is true for your nonprofit.  You put up barriers to protect your walk donors from being over-solicited or make sure your major donor prospect don’t get mail pieces that might soil their hands.  You make sure that national/local doesn’t get their stinkin’ mitts on “your donors” because that money should stay local/national.  As if it matters which pocket gets filled.

In what business are you in your direct marketing?  If you are not in the loving-donors-and-being-loved-by-donors business, might you be in the wrong business?  If a $20 mail donor becomes a $500 walk team captain, and that fills that donor up with warmth, do you view that as a $20 loss?  Then you are in the wrong business.

So this week, we’ll try to explode some myths about “our donors.”  They are not only your nonprofit’s donors.  They are not permanently destined to stay in a single channel.  They are not national’s or local’s.  They can be communicated with both personally and through direct marketing.  And so on.

And we’ll discuss some solutions, including a potentially radical (ironic) solution on Friday.  You won’t want to miss it.

Or, if you do want to miss it, hopefully we’ll catch you next week!

“Our donors” and channel conflict

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