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11NTC: Turning Frogs into Kittens

Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night: An Honest Review of Online Campaigns took a fun but hard look at online cause marketing, what works and what doesn’t and why.

Among the reasons nonprofits fail at creating inspiring campaigns that get their supporters to act are:

  • We forget who we’re talking to: When nonprofits create campaigns they are meant to speak to their constituents, activists and donors yet often we fail to get through. Why? The reason is that we speak to them in nonprofit speak which is only well understood by our colleagues. As nonprofit professionals we spend way too much time with one another and sometimes forget how to speak in a language our supporters will understand.
  • We are afraid of failing: We play it safe and then we fail and wonder why. It is important to let go of the fear of failure and use failure as an opportunity to learn and grow. Even more important than allowing ourselves to fail is learning to fail fast. Organizations need to learn to recognize a failing campaign, figure out what wrong and try again quickly.
  • We don’t make our campaigns appealing: Again, this is a problem of our believing that our supporters think like us when they in fact do not. Sometimes the best way to sell our cause is to rebrand, i.e. turning frogs into kittens, and/or to use non-traditional marketing strategies. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals did both by developing a video game that turned fish into “sea kittens” to teach children about sea life conservation.
  • We create campaigns that don’t fit our organizations: When we create campaigns we should begin by asking, “what are we good at” and “what does our audience want?” We need to draw on our strengths to develop campaigns that are true to what our organizations are about and what resonates most deeply with our supporters.

As we endeavor to create effective campaigns we should keep in mind to:

  • Be opportunistic, not icky: Don’t be afraid to take advantage of events in the news media or popular culture to direct attention to our cause. The most well-known example of an organization doing this is The Humane Society who used the media attention surrounding Michael Vick to highlight the problem of illegal dogfighting around the country.
  • Try many things when you’re online because you don’t know what will stick or for how long: No campaign is one-size-fits-all. The amount of people online is staggering and incredibly diverse so increase your odds of success by going after different audiences accordingly. Figure out what they want and how to say it.
  • Don’t be boring: Stand out! How else do you expect anyone to notice what your organization is doing?

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