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  • Tweak Your Group’s Marketing Message: 5 Tips From “Mad Men”

Patches of shadow mark the fading light and far away, down the deserted hallway, a door slams.

Late in your office, the cursor blinks accusingly as you wrestle once again with your new fundraising appeal…

You realize that it is high time to change your approach. Why not take some tips from snappy-dressed, chisel-jawed Don Draper from “Mad Men” and use copywriting techniques that advertising executives have proved work!


Tweak Your Group's Marketing Message: 5 Tips From "Mad Men"


1. “Success comes from standing out, not fitting in.”

This concept is the whole purpose behind developing a strong nonprofit brand. Especially smaller community based groups must work to stand out and stand up. Your supporters need to identify your organization as the go-to experts on the issue, whatever that issue may be.

A strong brand helps a charity stand out from the many other nonprofit appeals and identifies its cause from organizations doing similar work. Provoke positive emotional responses with your brand because people understand and identify with the mission.

Over time, when wisely developed and cultivated, organizations with strong brands become well known and tend to raise more money. With the upsurge in charitable organizations, the competition for funding becomes fierce. This is where a powerful brand becomes your organization’s best asset.

2. “Nostalgia: it’s delicate, but potent…”

The advertising industry knows that nostalgia creates strong emotions, effectively boosting mood and reinforcing positive feelings. A wistful or sentimental yearning for a time long passed is where forgotten memories are found that create the powerful feeling of nostalgia.

As we shape our appeals and other communications, we actually take part in the business of content marketing. For the content creator, using nostalgic moments creates a deep bond with the reader. By invoking this sense of shared history, the reader feels a commonality with the organization on a deeper level.

Madison Avenue uses nostalgia all the time to forge an emotional bond and build a sense of trust with their audience. You are selling the story of your mission. Engage your audience on an emotional level and their attention is assured.

So what will trigger nostalgia in your volunteers and donors? Can you link your cause with fond memories by using images, cultural icons or songs for example? These elements can create a potent jolt of nostalgia if included in your next nonprofit appeal.

For a nonprofit, nostalgia is a brilliant tactic to unite support across the generations. Use nostalgia… “It takes us to a place where we ache to go again.”

3. “Advertising is based on one thing: Happiness.”

We all know money can’t “buy” happiness but time after time, the results of multiple studies show that spending on others actually makes us happier than spending on ourselves.

There’s a whole lot of love going into a donation of time or money. The payback for donors is knowing they are part of a life changing experience.

There are three factors that unite to make a great donation experience:

  • Donor’s choice
  • Community links
  • Proof of the donation

Choosing to donate to the local school for example, connects us with our community and the new roof on the sports hall is proof of our dollar’s impact.

This is an excellent donation experience, ticking all the right boxes and possibly encouraging a knock-on effect of generosity.

But, this is also a situation where a charity can step in to keep the love alive! Even small gifts have a positive effect on happiness and it’s the post-donation experience that keeps those contributions coming in, encouraging ongoing engagement on the part of donors and volunteers.

4. “Well, technology is a glittering lure. But there’s the rare occasion when the public can be engaged on a level beyond flash, if they have a sentimental bond with the product.”

With all the technology at our disposal today, an organization can connect with its donors and prospects on a host of different levels. Social media and websites translate well for today’s mobile audience. The electronic platform allows an organization to emotionally engage with their fans on different levels.

Once again, here’s the concept that “emotions” are the glue, binding your reader to your cause, only this time it applies to our internet platforms. Here’s where we put a face, an experience, a situation in a story where the reader can picture themselves.

Tell individual stories, write the way you speak, use personal language and images of the organization in action. Whether it’s Twitter, FaceBook or another form of social media, try to “humanize” your mission.

Picture your audience, one person at a time and consider what else you can do to deepen the personal connection.

5. “If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.”

Unfortunately, even with all the good being done, the lives changed, the hope created; there are still some negative perceptions about the nonprofit sector. The public perception is sometimes based on flawed stereotypes. For example, comparing nonprofits with “scroungers.”

The reputation of an organization is what gives donors and sponsors confidence in a charity’s integrity and what they do. It’s a testament to our trustworthiness, giving supporters’ assurance we can deliver. Look after your organization’s reputation. It’s different to the “brand,” although a bad reputation will hurt the brand as well. The only way for a non-profit to work is to have an honorable and effective reputation.

You can also look at this in terms of individual programs or projects. If your group has a mission that’s not so popular, or perhaps even boring to the public (i.e a new heater unit for a theater) tweak your message to turn it into something fun and memorable (i.e. donation requests shows snowmen in the theatre.)

With all the words a nonprofit uses, the ones our donors see are the most important. The nonprofit appeals, the newsletters, the announcements and updates give us a chance to try the “Mad Men” method. Do like the Ad men: write specifically for your audience, in a language that will resonate with them and they will understand.


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