Update: Nonprofits – Power and Influence in our lives | npENGAGE

Update: Nonprofits – Power and Influence in our lives

By on Aug 17, 2009

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In my previous post, I started a little experiment on the “power and influence” of nonprofits on our lives.


First, let me admit that during much of the weekend I neglected to “look” for nonprofit messages and impressions as I entertained my son and his friends or enjoyed dinner with my wife and daughters, but none-the-less, I tracked more than 250 impressions and messages from 189 organizations from Thursday evening at 5:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Sunday evening. Had I counted the plethora of Catholic Charities promoted in the narthex of my home parish, I think I could have doubled that (ok, maybe a slight exaggeration), but since mass started at 5:00 p.m. Sunday, I decided not to add them to the total – I did not count churches, but did count faith-based organizations, like the Mobile Loaves and Fishes truck feeding the homeless near a downtown park.


What was clear is that the competition for nonprofits to deliver their messages to people is nearly as tough as that of consumer products and services – and is some places they are competing with consumer services or are part of the consumer good message. Such was the case at the Dairy Queen we went to and were able to have a portion of our purchase donated to one of three nonprofits. At one financial services outlet a nonprofit profit financial counseling service was competing for space and attention with both a for-profit provider and the government service.


The current news cycle also provides a plethora of nonprofit organizations that are active in the health care debate adding to the impressions that I saw. Virtually every sports report we watched had something about the death of Eunice Kennedy Shriver which always included mentions of Special Olympics and mention of Michael Vick, which highlighted or showed clips of messages from animal welfare organizations. Even watching highlights of the PGA Championship, I saw mentions of The First Tee and some commercials for products that supported environmental organizations with a purchase, and still others for local children’s organizations that are helping disadvantage kids with their back-to-school needs.Even watching shows on Discovery Channel and History Channel often have representatives from nonprofits sharing their expertise and insight. In fact, I learned it was pretty hard to watch shows on natural disasters (staple for a 9-year old boy) without seeing the Red Cross logo at some point in time during the show. I counted 8 different museums represented in a 45 minute viewing of one show on The History Channel.


One of the impressions was a bit ironic. A friend of mine and his wife asked me about insight into starting a nonprofit. As a successful dentist, he wants his family to give back to the community and use their talents and blessings to help other. 


I think the place that I was most surprised to see an opportunity to get engaged with a nonprofit was at Laser Tag. Trying to beat the 105-degree heat and get my son and his sleep-over buddy some exercise we went for a round or two of Laser Tag. There were two nonprofit impressions – one “portions of the proceeds” from the bottled water they provided supported clean water in Africa and the second was the opportunity pay a little more to a charity that provided birthday parties for kids that could not afford them. I think the surprise came as it was one of the times that I had become caught up in my life and forgot about the experiment, so they stuck out when I did notice them.


Here are the final results – unscientific and I am sure it’s not comprehensive. In a 72 hour period, I was exposed to more than 250 “messages” from 189 different nonprofit organizations. This included the biggest brands and some small orgs that I had never heard of. I eliminated the higher education messages and those that are quasi-governmental as I am pretty sure that would have taken me above 250 organizations. I also did not count any of the direct mail we received as some of what I get is because of my role and not representative of a “normal household.”


“So what?”  That’s a good question. 


One, I think it is important that people realize the impact of nonprofits on the community. I’ve seen estimates that the nonprofit sector makes up from 7-to-10 percent of GDP. That means that nonprofits have a significant impact not just on the social climate, but also economically. It is truly a powerful sector that influences virtually every aspect of our lives.


Second, nonprofit professionals need to understand the “competitive” environment for share of mind and wallet in the communities they serve. I saw some exceptionally strong marketing segmentation which delivered a powerful message and an ideal time. Sometimes there was a strong message with no call to action, other times a call to action, but no information on how and where to engage. Other times it was simply strong branding and awareness for the organization and the cause they champion.


So what’s next?  I think I’ll look a little deeper at some of the most compelling impressions and see what I can learn and share. One thing is for sure, I am more aware than I was on Thursday…


(Poster note: I know that I really should provide links in this post and I might come back and add them, but for now I wanted to get the results posted not hunt down links…sorry for the poor form. – Tad)

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