By Joe Waters, Guest Contributor, Selfish Giving
You wouldn’t know it from watching movies like Jurassic Park, but the dreaded Tyrannosaurus rex (T-Rex) wasn’t always a feared predator. Recent fossil discoveries point to a dinosaur that at one time was much smaller, probably the size of a bear. Terrifying, for sure, but not the apex predator it would become.
So why did the T-Rex eventually grow 40 feet long and rule the planet? Scientists aren’t sure, but they are pretty confident that the carnivorous dino developed “head first”—brains before bulk.
As the father of an equally fear-inducing teen-rex, I get it. I’ll be teaching my 16-year-old daughter to drive soon, and there’s a good reason why she’ll be learning in a car, instead of a bus, truck or tank. Driving something bigger requires more brain power. Bigger means more complicated. Any self-respecting T-Rex would tell you that.
Okay, I’m not sure a paleontologist—or a T-Rex—would agree with my thinking. But as a quasi cause marketing scientist, I know for sure that you’ll never grow a T-Rex-sized program with a pea brain. You need a big brain. Here’s how to grow one.
The “mini” version of the T-Rex developed about 170 million years ago. While small, they had plenty of big rivals to look up to—monstrous dinosaurs called allosauruses and spinosauri. It’s not unlike how cause marketers at small nonprofits look up to the “biggies” of cause marketing, nonprofits like St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital or Make-a-Wish, and think: “I could never be that big!” You probably won’t. Despite its reputation in movies, even the T-Rex didn’t grow to the size of some of the early meat-eaters of the dinosaur world. But the size of your organization shouldn’t stop you from thinking big or having big aspirations.
- A national brand can take years to build, but why not start by focusing on being a top brand in your region, state, city, neighborhood or street! The stronger your brand, the more success you’ll have recruiting business partners.
- Many of the same cause marketing strategies large nonprofits use can be employed by all nonprofits, regardless of size. It’s just a matter of scale and setting realistic expectations. You may not be able to execute a charity pin-up fundraiser in a chain with 2,000 locations. But why not a local supermarket chain with six locations?
A mini T-Rex could do the same things as its bigger cousins, but in a smaller way. You can, too. But you need to think big and act bigger.
Feed Your Brain
T-Rexes were relatively smart dinosaurs. They had bigger brains than humans! And while paleontologists haven’t made the discovery yet, I think I know why T-Rexes were so smart: they read—a lot.
How much are you reading about cause marketing, or anything else for that matter?
Being a successful cause marketer requires a lot of knowledge. You have to know how nonprofits and businesses work. You have to understand modern marketing principles. And let’s not forget the technology piece of fundraising that is becoming so important. The best cause marketers I know are like sponges. They love to read and learn, and they get their information from lots of different places.
A few suggestions for you.
- For Momentum’s Cause Marketing Blog is obviously a great place to start for learning about cause marketing. So is my blog and the Cause Marketing Forum website. Don’t forget their conference in June. It’s a must-attend event for cause marketers.
- Look for learning outside the nonprofit world. To find out more about inbound marketing, I read the HubSpot blog. For content marketing, I turn to the Content Marketing Institute. For the latest updates on social media, I follow Social Media Examiner. For writing advice, I follow Copyblogger.
- Read different things that have nothing to do with your work. Two of my favorite reads every week are Brain Pickings and Farnam Street. Both are weekly newsletters that curate posts on reading, science, leadership, art, music, etc. Where do you think I got the idea to talk about T-Rexes?
- Get your head out of your computer and read an actual book. I just finished Robert Rose’s Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing, an excellent book on the current upheaval in marketing and how organizations can excel. Now I’m reading The Year of Lear, a book that looks at the pivotal year of 1606 when Shakespeare wrote his most famous play: King Lear. I can only imagine what I’ll learn about cause marketing!
The key is never stop growing and learning, and it doesn’t happen by itself. You have to think big and feed your brain the fuel it needs to grapple with new and better ideas.
You can’t improve everything in your life. T-Rex was stuck with those tiny arms, so it knew your pain! If you want to flex bigger cause marketing muscles, start by exercising your brain. Take it from a T-Rex. It’s the only way to get to the top of the food chain.