How Nonprofits Can Stop a Zombie Apocalypse

I love zombie films.

I can’t get enough of them, especially around Halloween when the shadows from the leafless trees take on ominous shapes. Yikes!

While you may not share my love for the semi-dead, you might agree with this: most of us are surrounded by these mute, will-less, dumb, sometimes evil and dangerous brutes everyday.

The zombies stalking nonprofits are the people and situations they face daily that threaten their success and risk plunging them into a zombie apocalypse.

It’s scary stuff. Fortunately, there’s help thanks to my extensive zombie cinematic background and training.

One of my favorite zombie movies is Zombieland, which has a long list of rules for survival, shared throughout the film by the main character, Columbus.

Eight of these rules are critical to your nonprofit's survival. Ignore them at your own risk.

1. Cardio. The calorically-challenged end up as zombie food because they can’t outrun these monsters. Your cause too will also meet a horrible end if you’re not prepared to go the distance and persevere year after year. Success in anything doesn't happen overnight. It requires endurance. Don’t let your cause fall prey to the zombies just because you weren't up to the challenge of going long.

Appropriate Training: Make a commitment to something new that will make a real difference to your cause and stick with it. It could be updating your technology infrastructure, learning social media or - my personal favorite - giving cause marketing a try.

2. Double Tap. What a waste to die at the hands of a zombie just because you were too lazy and didn’t shoot them twice. Just like it would be a waste to give up on a program or project after the first try because someone said no, a company pulled out or because the a campaign had mixed or poor results. Like W. C. Fields said: "Try, and if you fail, try again. Then quit. No sense being a fool about it." But try again! Don’t give into the zombies and just give in after one shot.

Appropriate training: Pick an event, program or project that you think is worth a second shot and go for it.

3. Kill with Efficiency. Why bother reloading a gun when a nice, heavy toilet cover or rolling pin is handy? Don’t focus on the preferred or cool way to get the job done. Focus on getting things done. Everyone wants to do online giving, Facebook Like promotions, and land trendy partnerships with cool retailers like Apple and The Gap. But what’s at hand for cause marketing is easy to execute point-of-sale or purchase-triggered donation program with local retailers. They’re not always sexy, but they get the job done (raising money, increasing awareness). Zombies hate that!

Appropriate training: Take a good look at all the things your nonprofit does. What are your bread and butter programs that produce every year. Can you enhance their success or replicate another success from them?

4. Beware of Bathrooms. Confining yourself to a small space is not a good way to fend off the zombie hordes. A nonprofit that puts 100% of its time into cause marketing or events or grants is cornering themselves in a bathroom. It’s small, limiting and doesn’t get you to where you want to go - unless you really have to go. Don't confine yourself to one thing, regardless of how good it is. Spread yourself out!

Appropriate training: Start exploring new directions for your nonprofit and set one new course before the end of the year.

5. Get a Kickass Partner. Loners just don’t last very long in zombie films. Sigh. Doing fundraising by yourself - which can happen even if you're surrounded by many others (AKA zombies) - can be equally short-lived. I had kick-ass partners in Joanna MacDonald who helped me write Cause Marketing for Dummies. David Hessekiel and Megan Strand at Cause Marketing Forum are my kick-ass partners in everything cause-related. John Haydon is my tech and Facebook guru and truly my Tallahassee, although he acts more like Witchita. Regardless, I have people I can count on. So should you.

Appropriate training: Look around you. Would you describe your colleagues and partners as better candidates for "double taps" than kickass partners? It's time to reevaluate your relationships.

6. Check the Back Seat. It happens all the time in zombie movies: someone gets killed in their car because they didn’t check the back seat. Stupid way to go. To make sure you don’t meet the same end, watch for these nasty surprises.

  • A 100-slide PowerPoint presentation that no one at the meeting you're going to wants to see.
  • A bureaucrat from your office or board that will spend a whole meeting with a company blathering about your nonprofit’s mission and not saying a word about the potential opportunity for both partners.

Appropriate training:

Double check the things you do everyday or before fundraising calls. Are they helpful, useful? Or are they just obstacles to your success.

7. Opportunity knocks. One of the lessons of Zombieland is that opportunities in life just don’t come knocking. You still have to get off your butt and open the door! That’s how I feel about Halloween and even zombie events for fundraising and cause marketing. I promise if you open this door you'll find opportunity, not zombies.

Appropriate training: It's too late this year to plan a Halloween fundraiser, but it's a perfect time to plan one for next year. Here are some ideas on how others are using Halloween to give back.

8. God Bless Rednecks. Because they have all the guns and ammo you need kill zombies! Fundraising is a red-blooded business that raises most of its money from regular people just like you and me - especially when it comes to the cause marketing programs I specialize in. A few coins in a canister. A buck at the register. Fifty cents from the sale of a soda, sweater or meal. Regular people are the drivers behind programs that raise hundreds of millions of dollars for good causes every year.

In this zombie world of ours, they are your ultimate kickass partner.