Leaders & Doers

At today’s Tune-Up Tuesday meet-up, leadership came up again and again. It’s one thing to set strategy and it’s another thing to implement the strategy. Marketing strategy is decided by leadership (usually) and marketing implementation is done by managers, coordinators, assistants, etc. (usually).

The thing is once you start implementing you put the strategy to the test. And sometimes it doesn’t pass the test so you need to revisit. And this is where it can go sideways.

For the one doing the implementation (a.k.a. the ‘doer’), they need input/buy-in from leadership. But it can be nigh onto impossible to get their attention if it’s not ‘strategy season’.

So what’s a doer to do? Make a specific, actionable suggestion for how to course correct and show exactly how it ties to organizational goals.

Example: Our fundraising goal for the year is to increase our median gift size from current donors. However, our Facebook objective is to acquire new donors. Given our limited resources, I suggest we adjust our Facebook strategy so that we deepen relationships with current donors rather than attract new ones.

Be concise and specific. Be clear on which changes require leadership sign-off and which ones the doer can venture forth and figure out. Role clarity is key.

Related note: The more your organization uses social media, the more you should be open to failure. It takes a lot of tinkering to figure out what works. If you’re afraid of failure, you won’t tinker. If you don’t tinker, you won’t figure out what works. Permission to fail is one of the biggest gifts a leader can give.


Yesterday, I got a great piece of feedback from someone working at a food program in New York. He had watched this week’s Tune Up Tuesday video. The video advocates for using relativity and specificity so that your supporters can connect with your cause. This is based on research about making issues ‘human scale’, and is articulately explained in Made to Stick by the Heath Brothers. (They’re so dang smart!)

As this viewer explained, he can tell a variation of the following story…

Jennifer hadn’t eaten in three days. She struggles with multiple chronic diseases that prevent her from leaving her house. This lack of food was not uncommon for Jennifer and the level of weight loss was significantly damaging her health. Our program brought food right to her doorstep and now she’s eating healthy and getting healthy!

…and it might be an effective way to connect with some individual donors. However, this viewer’s point was that for many funders, especially foundations, he has to then draw the connection to the bigger issue and show broad, measurable impact. In the case of Jennifer, for instance, he would go on to say that 75% of their clients show progress toward achieving a healthy weight after being in the program, i.e. Jennifer represents an overall trend they see in their work, which is that it works.

It comes down to audience and sequencing. (Yes, yes, I know you all know that I don’t like the term ‘audience’, but sometimes you just gotta use it.)

Human beings are hard-wired to understand and relate to stories. That’s why starting with a story works. In order for some donors to make a connection–or make the case–for supporting your organization, they will also need the facts and figures to back it up. It all comes back to one of the cornerstones of effective nonprofit marketing: Know Thy Audience.

Thanks to this viewer for bringing up a REALLY important point!

What have you found with your supporters? Is storytelling an effective way to inspire action for your organization or do you need the facts and figures?

Hearts and Heads


Mark Phillips writes A Bloody Good Fundraising Blog. (It really is a bloody good blog.)

Among the many gems on his blog is The Idiots Guide to Fundraising. The stick figure at left comes from this post and it really says it all. It was the inspiration for this week’s Tune-Up Tuesday video about speaking to people’s hearts rather than their heads.

Then I read the ebook, Homer Simpson for Nonprofits, by the smart folks at Network for Good, Sea Change Strategies, and event360. This awesome little read bolstered my conviction that we need to stop trying to get people to engage by stuffing their brains with facts and figures. It also gave very specific, practical, effective ways to speak directly to people’s emotional  minds.

Are you making people’s heads hurt or their hearts sing?

Do you communicate as effectively as you think?


Do you communicate as effectively as you think?