We recently developed a planned giving marketing postcard for a major university. The development staff decided to run the concept by a tenured professor.
The professor completely re-wrote the card. He made it softer than a newborn’s tushie and so vanilla that it will not raise a single eyebrow. That is, he made it “safe”, just like his job. The coupons from the local supermarket will get more attention. Worse: the solicitation letter from the non-profit next door.
Thanks to this professor, I expect this postcard will have a 0% impact on 100% of the readers. But the team did feel “safe”.
People in certain professions are generally regarded as “smart.” Fine. But smart in what? Grammar? Physics? Fixing cars? Brewing the best coffee in the world? Everyone has his or her place.
Sure, tenured professors are smart. (So are MDs, CPAs, and JDs.) But they do not know marketing. And they have a bad habit of re-inventing the wheel. There’s something to be said about tried and true.
Marketers Get It. Academics Don’t.
I almost went to med school to be a doctor like my father. I’m glad I didn’t. (You should be glad, too!) And I know I’ll never become a professor. I’d be terrible at it.
Philanthropy, just like business, is about raising money. It’s not about academics. One of my uncles is an MIT grad and does okay in his business. The other uncle is a 3rd grade dropout who has made millions. The business side of philanthropy has to be seriously addressed, which we regularly do in our webinars.
Never take marketing advice from a CPA, attorney, or a tenured professor. Many in development shops do.
I do not say this in a bad way… it’s just the way it is. My dad was a perfect example. He could perform flawless ear surgery, had great bedside manner, and got standing ovations when he lectured to med students. But he did not know the first thing about marketing.
If you want people to pay attention to your direct mail intended to raise money, let those of us who are “smart” in marketing have the final say.