Philanthro-tainment II

Gone20to20the20beachsm_2Soaking up the sun last week on Cape Cod, I didn't get a chance to write my regular post.  Kind of tough to type when your two kids have buried you in the sand.  Due punishment for dozing off, I guess.

I'll try to make it up to you next week.

But do check out the recipient of my first SELFISH ASS AWARD!

Also, I got a bunch of questions on last week's Philanthro-tainment post.  Here are some of them and my responses.

From Joanna: Isn't Philanthro-tainment just a newfangled word for something that nonprofits have been doing for years? 

Yes and no. 

Yes, because nonprofits have obviously always used entertainment to woo donors.  That's why we have charity dinners, bowlathons, golf tournaments, etc. 

No, because all these events started with someone asking "How can we raise money?".  Philanthro-tainment sidesteps the money question (temporarily) and instead asks: "What's a good idea?  What would people find interesting, unique, attractive and fun?".  It requires a shift in thinking.  The only place philanthropy comes first is in the word Philanthro-tainment.

From Jen: Is Philanthro-tainment the next big wave in philanthropy?

No.  But it is another wave that nonprofits should learn to ride.  The marketplace is just too competitive for nonprofits not to play every angle they can to cut through the clutter and to raise money.

Follow-up From Jen: So Philanthro-tainment is a good choice for all nonprofits? 

Yes.  But some are better suited for it than others.  Philanthro-tainment is a very good option for nonprofits that don't have a large donor base.

For example, the hospital I work at serves an economically challenged community.  Half the people we treated last year made less than $17,000.  Like most hospitals, we have grateful patients, but unlike most hospitals our patients don't have the means to support us.  Consequently, we recruit donors from the ranks of people who probably have never been a patient of ours but nevertheless share our ideal of providing exceptional care without exception.  In short, I have to think more creatively about ways to rally prospects to our flag.  And the spectacle of the philanthro-tainment big top has been a big boon to fundraising!

From Greg: Where should I look for ideas?

You have to be a student of everything around you.  I watch TV, listen to the radio, read three daily newspapers and follow a ton of marketing blogs and newsletters.  The key is being attentive to what you're reading, hearing and seeing and always running the data through that computer on your shoulders.  Remember, you're not just looking for any old idea.  You're looking for news you can use.

From Pete: How will I know if an idea is right for my organization?

My team and I come up with ideas all the time, but very few see the light of day.  A critical question I ask is what assets do we possess that will take the idea from theory to reality.  In short, do we have some important chit that will allow us to pull it off.

A good example is our South End Shop Walk.  For several years prior we had a traditional cause walk in the neighborhood surrounding the hospital until we realized that a valuable asset dotted the route: trendy shops and restaurants.  In addition to being entertaining, the shop walk was a much improved and welcomed spin-off from your everyday cause walk.  But the shop walk would never have happened if we weren't blessed with being located in a burgeoning shopping district.

From Tony: What should I be prepared for?  Lots of experimenting and some failure.  Not every idea works.  You're riding the back of a tiger.  Sometimes you beat the tiger.  Sometimes the tiger eats you!

From Athena: I want to hire someone to start a Philanthro-tainment program for my nonprofit.  What type of person would you recommend?

I'll be honest: I think it's difficult to find good people from the nonprofit world.  The mind and skill set just aren't there.  Focus on people from corporate advertising, marketing and media.  My most recent hire was from an advertising agency.  Yesterday, I interviewed someone from Disney.  Hey, you're in show business now.  Hire accordingly.

From Jim: My boss is old-school.  How do I convince her that Philanthro-tainment is something worth trying?

You have to take baby steps and make sure the buy-in is there, and the willingness to accept the accompanying risks.  Start with a small project to get your feet wet and to build credibility. 

If you don't think that will work, drop hints, suggestions until the light bulb goes on and your boss thinks philanthro-tainment is her idea. 

If that fails, get a new job and repeat previous two steps.  If you like where you work and don't want to leave, consider poisoning your boss.  I've found that that always works! 

From Anonymous: Philanthro-tainment is a bunch of crap!  I've unsubscribed you from my newsletter, Mom.