An Open Letter About Tuition – And What it Says About Marketing

Tickld – Spread Laughter and Cure Boredom.

This is a great letter. Likely phony as all hell. The best part are the incensed comments. Everybody has an opinion on the relative value of an education.

I mean, is it worth it to go into debt — lots of debt — and pay a full sticker price of tens of thousands of dollars a year to get a Master’s degree in, oh, I don’t know, Elizabethan Poetry?

I don’t know. I don’t know how you feel about Elizabethan Poetry. Or working at Starbucks. Or whether any of that matters.

No debt, home ownership, degrees that get you a job … those things are like Manifest Destiny and the Domino Theory: something to be disproved at a later date.

You can’t put an arbitrary value on someone else’s education. You can’t say that they paid too much and therefore are stupid. You don’t know. It’s not about you.

What I can tell you is this: if that’s a real letter from an actual alum, then his or her college’s alumni marketing department is filled to the brim with fail. You have to know what your former students are doing. Sending them a blanket flashy “gimme” piece is something you may have done two decades ago, but it’s certainly not how you interact today.

And, yes, your tuition is too damn high. Yes, the financial aid process is broken in this country. Yes, it’s hard to find a good job. Sometimes it’s even hard to find a bad job. Instead of wasting your money on flashy brochures, why don’t you invest in employment counseling or services for your alums? And Mr. or Ms. Letter Writer: get over yourself just a little bit, yeah?

General Operating Funds, Admin Expenses and Why We Nonprofits are Our Own Worst Enemies

I think I may have a little “writer’s crush” on Vu Le, who brilliantly assays the blog, Nonprofit With Balls. This is a terrific litany of much of what’s wrong with fundraising today. When grantor organizations place so many restrictions on their gifts, they ultimately hurt the nonprofits that they allegedly want to help. I’ve seen it a thousand times, but I’ve never seen the problem written about with so much wry humor. H/T Tom Cott|You’ve Cott Mail

For years I have been railing against restricted funding to anyone who would listen. I wrote a piece imagining what it would be like if a bakery ran with the same funding restrictions as a nonprofit: “I need a cake for some gluten-free veterans. I can pay you only 20% of the cost of the cake, and you can only spend my money on eggs, but not butter, and certainly not for the electricity; you have to find someone else to pay for the oven’s electricity. Also, you need to get an accounting firm to figure out where you’re spending my money, but you can’t use my money to pay for that service.”

via General operating funds, admin expenses, and why we nonprofits are our own worst enemies / Nonprofit With Balls.

Kickin’ It — Crowd Funding Has Serious Legs

I’m a believer in crowd funding. I’ve been a part of funding several excellent projects and I’m proud that I played some small role in making these things happen. It is one of the astonishing miracles of crowd funding. It is also another second-decade-of-the-millennium twist on something old as the day is long.

The thing is, we don’t always worry about $10 or $50; we worry about the $1,000 gift or the $50,000 one. How many executive directors of non-profits have I heard in my life say, “I’m not WASTING my time thanking someone who have me a sawbuck, I’m saving that for the ‘big gets.'” And those are the arrogant pricks that you want to punch in the throat.

Are you strategically leveraging your smaller donors? Do you have a crowd funding strategy? If not, why not?

From Kickstarter’s recent blog post, giving you an idea of what’s happening in this particular world:

With a quarter of 2014 behind us, it’s time to update you on what’s happened at Kickstarter so far this year. In the past three months alone, 4,497 projects have been successfully funded by 887,848 backers. People have backed everything from a restoration of Abraham Lincoln’s couch to Neil Young’s new music device, Pono.

Here are the full numbers for Q1:

Dollars pledged to projects: $112,038,158
Average pledged per day: $1,244,868
Successfully funded projects: 4,497
Total backers: 887,848
New backers: 679,413

Read the rest HERE. Quite interesting, indeed.

Putting people’s needs first | Gerry McGovern

Gerry McGovern. Image:

Gerry McGovern. Image:

Peter Drucker once said that all organizations are basically the same, whether they be armies, churches, non-profits or commercial organizations. It’s certainly true that in working in web consulting for almost twenty years, I keep seeing the same problems coming up again and again in non-profits, intranets, commercial websites, government websites, etc. … Success is much more about getting the focus right. It is about the absolute shift away from an organization-centric view of the world, and focusing relentlessly on what the person coming to your website needs to do.

via Putting people’s needs first | Gerry McGovern.

If I could only bottle Gerry McGovern and Seth Godin, I’d corner the market on, well, everything.

This is a slight post, but full of deep, deep thought on why websites are developed the way they are and what’s standing in the way of your organization achieving greatness.

Post-Interview Thank You Notes: Yeah or Nay

Why Handwritten Notes Beat E-Mail

This was a post and a link to the above article I came across in a LinkedIn group today. It’s very interesting. You should read it.

I have always been a big believer in the handwritten note. In fact, for many years, I drilled H-A-R-S (Hand Addressed Real Stamp) into people who were working on donor and subscriber campaigns for me. You can’t NOT open a hand addressed envelope with a real stamp on it. A First-Class stamp; not one of those poxy non-profit rate knock-offs. That said, I thought this response was very prescient indeed. (I’ve redacted the commenter’s name, FYI.)

• Allow me to disagree. As a former hiring manager, most of my communications came through email. The postal mail brought trades, junk mail and rarely, an invoice (most invoices were emailed). I did not like to get mail – it was a nuisance. And frankly, since most postal mail went into a mail slot (only top execs got direct delivery), I only checked the box once a week. Emailed thank yous were appreciated, timely and readily responded to when appropriate. And they were guaranteed to be read. I too love handwritten notes – but I think they work better for personal use.

I think this commenter has a valid point. Worth thinking about at any rate.

How to Say Thank You — A Saga and A Case Study in Doing It Right

Okay, kiddos, I brought this up at work last week and a few people seemed to understand some of the words, so I thought I would repeat it in more augmented form here. So, here’s a few tips from the land of Savvy-Ass Marketing 101, inspired by watching the Kickstarter campaign of the web series EastSiders unfold.

This needs a set-up, though. Once upon a time, back before the flood, back before the earth began to cool, back around the time Mr. Edison invented the Mazda lamp, I worked in non-profit professional theatres. Most of my job was to develop marketing and promotional schemes for plays and events. Getting people to buy tickets. I was exceptionally good at it.

There are two revenue streams in this type of business: (1) earned — the things people purchase and (2) contributed — the money people give you.

One night, working late, I thought about contributed income — and I usually didn’t because development work bored me to bits — and it occurred to me that we were doing a poor job of marketing our fund-raising. (The people that I pitched this idea to decided to humor me and let me do whatever I had already decided that I was going to do, having already discovered that I am the type of person that it’s best to humor or it’s just death by a thousand cuts until you give in.)

Most people build thank you programs on the public television “donor appreciation” model. You know, “For a $25 contribution you get this Downton Abbey tongue depressor, but for a $250 contribution we’ll send you a wooden spoon autographed by Mrs. Patmore.” And I did it, too, but where I went a bit rogue was designing the actual thanking. What?

Yes. I actually told people how to write the words “thank you.”

Here’s the deal: people adore something personal. Back in the days of print, I had note cards printed so we could hand write a note. You would then hand address the envelope and put a real stamp on it — never, ever run it through the meter or label it — because you (yes, you) cannot resist a hand addressed and hand stamped envelope, especially when you know there’s a card inside.*

THEN, I took it a step further and conned a few of my company members to write these notes for me. Except, I didn’t want them doing the “big gets;” I asked them to write the notes for the smaller gifts, e.g.:

“Dear Mrs. Jones,
Thank you so much for your gift of $25. Your gift is so important to us as it allows us to continue producing terrific shows like our recent production of Uncle Vanya that I was so proud to be a part of. We really do appreciate — and need — every gift, so your generosity truly does make our shows possible. Again, thanks.
Steve Actor

P.S. I hope to see you next month when I’ll be appearing as Danny Zuko in Grease!”

Theatre fans LOVE to get stuff from actors. It worked because of that and it worked because it was genuine. Every time we had a chance to thank someone personally, we did. And while I’ve thought up a blue million thank you gifts in my time, nothing has ever worked better than a personal thank you note.

Besides, the warm fuzzy you get from the thank you note may engage you to be receptive to increasing your gift AND it makes it more likely that you’ll be more receptive to purchasing another ticket (or widget/fruit basket/dog obedience class) the next time I have one for sale.

Flash forward to social media infused today. What’s the equivalent of the hand addressed thank you note? Well, how about this:


Here’s what happened. I like this series. I think it’s smart — and smart is rare on the web these days. They began a Kickstarter campaign and one of the things they asked — because, remember, you don’t get anything unless you ask — was that if you’ve contributed then to share it on your Facebook or Twitter. Okay. Fine.

This is called word-of-mouth and historically it’s the most important way ticket sales are influenced. It’s also a personal appeal and that’s the most effective influencer there is.

I wrote a short blog post and then sent it out on Twitter. HOW HARD WAS THAT?  Next time I looked at my phone, I had that note. So, what now? Well, now I’m invested. I am an invested investor. They have given me a reason to care that they succeed.

Every day this week, there’s been a video posted on YouTube about their progress. AND a thank you to the fans and contributors in each one. This has been a super successful campaign. They met their initial goal in four days. Then, this tweet arrived:


Then, this video was posted later in the day:

Why? Why do this? Why make this thank you video? Why send out updates? Why tweet out screen shots of your Kickstarter page? Why make a series of thank you videos? Why? Because, cats and babies, that’s how you get to do it again.

Be grateful. Be genuine. Be appreciative. Be bloody, bold and resolute. Be gracious. Be humble.

How many people are going to fund your next great idea — no matter how well-crafted it is — if you’re a dick?

See, there’s nothing fun — nothing useful — nothing creative — about sitting home alone, brooding that the world doesn’t understand the genius that you know you are. In the immortal words of cold pop-loving Internet meme Sweet Brown, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”

On the other hand, “Could you help me with an idea? I’d really appreciate it,” goes one helluva lot farther.

So, the first barrier is breached: the “we need this much money to just barely do it” barrier. Now, the harder work comes: the “we need to raise money to pay actors, to pay crew, to feed people on set, to rent better lights, to have more edit time, to make it a viable enterprise” phase. And it’s harder because people are more likely to give money for bricks and mortar than flesh and blood. Sadly, that’s really true across the board in almost any fund-raising enterprise.

I’m looking forward to see what the EastSiders team does next — because they’ve done the marketing of their fund-raising flawlessly so far — and they’ve stayed bang on top of all the social stuff which, I can’t stress this enough, is so incredibly critical to this type of enterprise but so easy to let slip.

I want to see how far above that initial goal they get because, you know, a labor of love is great, but you can’t pay the electric bill with it.

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N.B. — I just checked, as of 1/22/13 they have raised a bit more than $21K which is more than their revised goal. There’s still two weeks left. I do enjoy seeing a plan come together!

*Truth in advertising: not my original idea, I just tweaked it and played with it. Like “Fresh Eggs and Flying Lessons,” I stole it, but I always credited it as such!

Crowdfunding via Kickstarter: A New Kind of PR? – PRNewser

Crowdfunding via Kickstarter: A New Kind of PR? – PRNewser.

Crowdsourcing or crowdfunding is a buzzword right now. I blogged about it recently. I think it’s an interesting alternative for SMALL asks, I don’t know about anything larger right now.

I’m of about the same mind as this commenter, “SpreadTheNewsPR,” who says:

A few of my clients have done this — but as far as it generating media interest — crickets. We’ve found that we can get interest for the product on its merits but the media by and large aren’t interested in covering KickStarter projects as part of the newspeg….partly, they say, because everybody and their dog is doing it and it isn’t news…and partly because most media won’t feature a product or venture until it is on the market, not those in development. What is your media interest experience here?