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Self-Promotion Works – Even Without Automatic Weapons

In an interesting follow-up to the recent Navy SEALs takedown of terrorist kingpin Osama bin Laden, the Associated Press is reporting that the Navy SEAL Foundation has experienced a 60% rise in weekly donations.

Wouldn’t you just kill for results like that?

Clearly, there’s brouhaha and to spare over this whole OSL termination without trying to shoehorn the issue of philanthropy in there as well.

But amidst all the sound and fury, this boost in donations to the Navy SEAL Foundation (which provides a variety of support services for SEALs and their families) reminds us of how foregrounding your nonprofit’s mission – raising awareness of the good that your organization is doing right now in the real world – can supercharge your fundraising performance.

Your mission profile:

  • Harness your passion.
  • Target your prospects.
  • Inspire them.
  • Enlist them as allies.
  • Call on them to join the good fight.
  • Close the gift and keep pushing forward.

We know he wasn’t talking about planned giving marketing, but keep in mind what General Eisenhower used to say: “Just do whatever it takes.”

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To Whom It May Concern,

I was just perusing your website and stumbled across your May 11th blog posting, “Self-Promotion Works – Even Without Automatic Weapons.”

Don’t you think it’s in extremely poor taste to make a statement like “Wouldn’t you just kill for results like that?” in relation to planned giving, while referencing an actual killing, albeit one undertaken in national defense?

This doesn’t really speak to the sensitivity to mortality issues touted in other areas of your website. This kind of gallows humor is maybe appropriate with friends over drinks, but not on the public website of an industry provider. Behavior like this makes me second-guess your expertise, content, and products.


Peter B. Hyland

Dear Mr. Hyland,
Thank you for your response.
First, I must say that I agree with you: That “wouldn’t you kill for results like that” line went right to the edge, and maybe a little over it.
But we don’t write or publish a line like that by mistake.
From our point of view, the worst thing we can do is perpetuate the boring vanilla boilerplate kind of writing found so often in fundraising and planned giving. To capture a reader’s attention we must challenge and intrigue. Maybe even provoke.
Sometimes that might mean we offend someone.
It’s a fine line and it involves risk-taking, but we wouldn’t be marketing proactively if we weren’t always pushing the envelope.
Regarding the issue of bad taste in our blog reflecting negatively overall on the services, content and know-how that PlannedGiving.Com offers to the fundraising world, I would ask to you consider that the risky, attention-getting line in our blog actually embodies some of the soundest marketing principles.
Starting from the premise that the fundraising discourse in general is terminally boring, we at PlannedGiving.Com urge fundraisers to stand out from the crowd, reject the blah and engage their prospects aggressively with effective materials and techniques.
We don’t recommend that fundraisers offend their prospects. But remember, this blog isn’t directed at prospects. It attempts to share useful insights and how-to’s with fundraisers. And to do that it has to catch even the most jaded (or sleepy) eye!
That’s why we ran with the risky line in the blog post teaser.
I appreciate your raising the issue and giving us this opportunity to explain.

Dear Viken,

I understand you don’t want to write a boring blog post. I’m not sure why your remedy is to write something sensationalist.

I think it’s a stretch to say your post is challenging or intriguing. Both these terms suggest content that is intellectually demanding or conceptually captivating–your post bears neither of these qualities. Your fundamental argument is pretty straightforward: increased awareness about your organization will result in increased contributions and commitment. There’s nothing original there, but we all need to be reminded of core tenets like this from time to time.

Perhaps your post is provocative, but only in the crudest sense. If I shout out an obscenity while waiting in line at the supermarket, it may provoke people into paying attention to me, but what then? Does it make me seem respectable or credible? I doubt it.

I suppose we just have two different attitudes toward integrity, professional or otherwise. I don’t feel its necessary, or ultimately productive, to produce flippant statements that piggyback on human turmoil in order to dispense fundraising advice.

You embrace the notion that within marketing, “just do whatever it takes,” even if “sometimes that might mean we offend someone.” Put another way, your arugement states that there shouldn’t be any ethical framework guiding our professional practices. I can’t buy into this as a fundraiser, or as human being in general.

In your post, you use the phrase “sound and fury,” which comes from Shakespeare’s Macbeth. I’ll connect the phrase back to the play by extending the quote a bit; my concern with the sensationalist strategy you employ is that it’s “a tale / Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, / Signifying nothing.” The strategy itself is hollow, with short-term benefits at best.

I’m glad you don’t recommend offending prospects, but your post offended me, a fundraiser–your reader, your audience. But I’m just one person, and maybe none of your other readers are bothered by the same things I am.

Ultimately, you’ve succeeded. You definitely got my attention for a moment, though I doubt in the way you really intended. Thanks for your response, and best of luck with your blogging in the future.



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