I'm Longing for Nostalgia in Nonprofit Marketing


“Nostalgia. It’s delicate, but potent... ‘nostalgia’ literally means ‘the pain from an old wound.’ It’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone.”

Source: Quartz Obsession

It must be my age because I'm a sucker for things that bring up memories of the old days - and all the happy feelings of comfort and joy and safety that come with them. I call them "The good ole days" but what I'm really talking about is Nostalgia

I get nostalgic get whenever I watch The Waltons or White Christmas or think of The Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon or remember playing Space Invaders. It's an ache for a simpler time when life seemed easier, richer and happier.

I vividly remember coming home from a day of canning for the Muscular Dystrophy Association on Telethon weekend. It must have been 1975 or '76. I came through the front door and my mother and godfather were watching Lewis on our old Zenith television (which needed to be serviced by a repairman named Lloyd at least once a month). They were laughing about something on the show and asking me about how much I had raised.

Happier times. Simpler times. Warmer times (and not from climate change).

I did a little exploring and came up with some of the benefits and lessons of using nostalgia in your nonprofit marketing.  

1. Nostalgia is efficient and cost-effective marketing. That's because a lot of the work has already been done for you. I already feel nostalgic about the Jerry Lewis Telethon, MDA just needs to link these feelings with a current message to evoke a favorable response.

2. Nostalgia is very specific to the audience. I grew up in the 70's during the hey-day of Jerry Lewis and the Telethon. But Millennials born in the 80's and 90's won't feel the same way as I do about Lewis or Telethon. For them, it might be the charity walks and runs that defined the charity landscape late in the last century.

3. Nostalgia is even trick with people from the same generation. Not everyone has happy memories of the Jerry Lewis Telethon. Not everyone from my generation thought Lewis was a great philanthropist. Others didn't appreciate what they considered to be "pity-appeals" on the telethon. Nonprofits need to do their homework to ensure they are appealing to a positive memory that most people share. 

P. S. I got the idea on writing about nostalgia from Quartz Obsession. Have you read it? Every day they cover a single topic, like nuclear reactors, gold or nose rings. I highly recommend it!


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