Against their better judgment — indeed, against any judgment at all — the lords of Charleston AMA recently asked me (and, in a flash of wisdom, Liz Mester of Wings For Kids) to inaugurate the Coffee Talk series for non-profits with a discussion called Showing Is Better Than Telling: Making your case succinctly to all your target audiences.
From what I saw, it was a superb performance. (Thankfully, I didn’t see my own presentation.) Coffee Talks in each category will take place roughly quarterly, (we also have a real estate series) and if the first one was any indication, non-profit marketing is a popular subject. Either that, or I have suddenly become attractive to the ladies. (You know which way to bet.)
If you work in non-profit and missed the presentation, I recommend you time travel backwards a few weeks and catch it live. (Also bet the house on Northwestern minus the points against Duke.) If you’re “too busy” to time travel, or some other lame excuse, here’s a synopsis, which you’ll want to print out, frame and hang on the wall for target practice.
1. Showing is better than telling. Empty claims don’t move people; data, images, pictures and stories make the case vividly. Many non-profits fail to use their powerful stories, vivid pictures and dramatic images because they take some work to obtain. Also it’s easy to just blather.
2. People give to charity because of how they feel, not because of what they think. We give to charity because it makes us feel like the kind of person who helps others, because we want to feel generous, or part of something or connected to an issue. So non-profits should focus on how their potential donors will feel, not what they will think. If presidential campaigns are any indication, thinking isn’t at the top of too many people’s lists.
3. Non-profits, like other businesses, should focus on The One Thing they do. No one needs to know everything your non-profit does, just its unique value proposition – the one thing that makes it different from everyone else. This is rarely represented in the mission statement, which is often written in Klingon. It is captured in good elevator speeches.
4. All good communicating is story-telling…which Liz showed can be accomplished in 35-word newsletter stories and 112-character tweets and zero-word photos. They can even be accomplished in tedious, verbose, trifling blog posts.
Like this one.
Coffee talks are less expensive (free for members, and I was worth every penny), shorter, more narrowly focused, less formal and conducive to more give and take than monthly luncheons. I was even prepared for hecklers, though there was none of that. Unless you count snoring.
Look for the next Non-Profit Coffee Talk in February, subject TBA but almost certain to be scintillating.
The participants in the last one should be recovered by then.