After the recent close of SXSW 2013, where thousands convened around innovations in technology, music and film [and to meet Grumpy Cat], I started thinking about major innovation trends in the nonprofit marketing world. The following two TED talks provide innovative pathways for nonprofits to achieve the necessary scale to tackle massive social issues. Both presentations include compelling theories and examples of how nonprofits can affect significant, measurable change when empowered, encouraged and enabled to leverage business and marketing techniques to achieve their goals.
As described by TED: “Instead of equating frugality with morality, he asks us to start rewarding charities for their big goals and big accomplishments (even if that comes with big expenses). In this bold talk, he says: Let’s change the way we think about changing the world.”
“Our generation does not want its epitaph to read ‘We kept charity overhead low.’ We want it to read that we changed the world.”
Dan describes the following 5 major ways that an outdated donor/partner mindset is making it nearly impossible for non-profits to scale large enough to meet humanity’s massive social problems head-on.
- Compensation: Scale Barrier: Nonprofit compensation is not tied to value created. He walks you through a great example.
- Advertising/Marketing: Scale Barrier: In the corporate world, marketing/advertising is a proven strategy for reaching target audiences to achieve organizational goals. Budgets reflect this. Conversely, on the nonprofit side, overhead ratio scrutiny severely limits organizational ability to leverage advertising and marketing as a strategy to increase fundraising success.
- Risk Taking On New Revenue Generating Ideas: Scale Barrier: Nonprofits are so harshly judged that a single fundraising experiment not producing stellar results can kill its reputation and future ability to raise money. This fear subsequently squashes motivation for innovation in fundraising techniques.
- Time: Scale Barrier: Not valuing a long-term vision that requires financial investment in infrastructure/capacity-building over time in order to ultimately serve a larger population more effectively.
- Profit to Attract Risk Capital: Scale Barrier: Since non-profits can’t use profit to pay investors, they don’t have access to the multi-trillion dollar growth/risk/capital market.
“The next time you’re looking at a charity, don’t ask about the rate of their overhead. Ask about the scale of their dreams…how they measure their progress towards those dreams, and what resources they need to make them come true.” –Dan Pallotta
As described by TED: “In her talk, Melinda Gates makes a provocative case for nonprofits taking a cue from corporations such as Coca-Cola, whose plugged-in, global network of marketers and distributors ensures that every remote village wants — and can get — a Coke. Why shouldn’t this work for condoms, sanitation, vaccinations too?”
“My vision of happiness is a mother holding a healthy baby in her arms. To me that is deep happiness. And so if we can learn lessons from the innovators in every sector, then in that future that we make together, that happiness can be just as ubiquitous as Coca-Cola.”
–Melinda French Gates
Ms. Gates points out 3 global innovation areas where Coca-Cola excels and how nonprofits could be (and are starting to) leverage them for the greater good:
- Real time data is immediately fed back into the product. Nonprofit Opportunity: Most nonprofit impact data is revealed at the end of the project, far too late. Real time data could empower the people on the ground to take important and life saving action. She shares a polio outbreak containment example.
- Tap into local entrepreneurial talent to create an appropriate system. Nonprofit Opportunity: Tap into locals to intimately understand what is needed on the ground to make change. She shares a successful Ethiopian health extension worker program example that has saved thousands of lives.
- Incredible aspirational marketing with a localized approach.
Nonprofit Opportunity: Currently, health & development market marketing is based on avoidance, not aspirations, e.g. “Use a condom, don’t get aids.” “Wash your hands, you might not get diarrhea.” To get real results, tailor the approach to appeal to personal, internal motivations.
Example: Sanitation: We know that 1.5M children die annually because of diarrhea. Much of that is caused by open defecation. There is a solution: build a toilet. However, they have found that toilets just don’t get used. In order to get a result, they had to both educate the community AND provide a personal motivation. They had to position the toilet as a trendy, modern convenience. They tied it to courtship. Females started requiring use of a toilet as dating/marriage criteria. This funny, innovative, effective marketing messaging angle is saving lives: “No loo, no I do.”
“I think that we make a fundamental mistake. We make an assumption. We think that if people need something that we don’t have to make them want that.
I think that is a mistake.”
- -Melinda French Gates
The mindset shifts and forward-thinking approaches showcased in these two presentations illustrate the power and potential of innovation in the nonprofit sector. Study and learn from successful brands. Look for ways to leverage new technologies to empower people with real-time data. Insist on finding the most appropriate ways to measure and articulate organizational impact. Be proactive. And, I urge you to revisit your partnership and marketing strategies with an eye on aspiration, localization, and true impact.
I agree with TED…I think these are “ideas worth sharing.”