(Fund)Raising Hell

Bad news. I was wrong. Sex doesn't sell. A marketing professor at the University of Colorado says so. He polled more than 200 shoppers and found that if they wanted quality in a product, like say a laptop computer, they were actually turned off by an attractive model selling it.

But it gets worse. You can't use sex--or any other cheap, attention-getting tactics--to raise money either. Donor Power Blog says so.

"Like sweepstakes. Address labels. Other premiums that have nothing to do with the cause. Those things are the 'sex' of nonprofit marketing. If someone suggests using them, just say no!"

DPB has a point, of course. Relevance matters. You can't just scream "Sex!--Want to support my cause?" and expect any credible results. But nonprofits tend to dismiss anything edgy or "sexy" out of hand. Armed with their holier-than-thou attitude they view everyone else--and their outlandish (and sometimes successful) marketing tactics--as very much beneath them.

But fundraising isn't the only profession that requires a "sacred trust". So does medicine, financial services and cosmetology (my wife's stylist is part shaman, part consigliere.). But while these fields continue to evolve and innovate (have you seen the stuff they have in hair salons these days?), most nonprofits are aloof, staid and conservative.

Does this mean that nonprofits should violate the "sacred trust" placed in them? Absolutely not. But to harp on it like it's the only thing that matters keeps us bowed and penitent. We're like the Puritan who couldn't sleep because he knew someone somewhere was having a good time.

"Sex" in nonprofit marketing may not always work but it isn't wrong. Just because we're doing God's work doesn't mean we can't raise a little hell.