You bring something unique to the table.
Your organization is a one of a kind. Unlike any other. Even if someone down the street or in another state does “exactly” what you do, they aren’t like you. Not even close.
You’re you. And that’s your strength. There’re always variables that mean no organization, no ministry, no nonprofit is like you. No one. And you’re not like them.
You know that right?
Then you don’t have to read any further because you don’t need today’s message. See you next week.
Today is for the well-meaning leaders who can’t keep from looking over the fence at what those “other guys” are doing. It usually goes something like this:
Charity Water uses blue envelopes. We should do that.
Compassion International only uses black and white photos in their sponsorship packets. We should just use black and white photos.
World Vision’s website uses buttons shaped like squirrels. We need digital squirrels.
Of course, I have no problem learning from smart people. We all do.
The difficulty (and danger) comes when we quit studying and start copying. It usually comes in the form of a logical fallacy called: post hoc ergo propter hoc (“after this, therefore because of this”). It’s an easy mistake to make. The less Ivy League way of saying it is: if they do this thing and are successful, it must be the “thing” that’s making them successful, so we’ll do that thing and be successful, too.
Here’s the breakdown:
Charity Water raises about 4 billion dollars with each of their direct mail appeals. They often have blue envelopes. If we send direct mail appeals in blue envelopes, we’ll raise more money. Of course, the fallacy comes from ignoring the fact that Charity Water has a super sophisticated direct mail machine using deep data analysis, sharp, tested creative strategies and a HUGE donor database to mention just a few advantages.
Compassion International is one of the most successful child sponsorship organizations in North America. Their sponsorship package has mostly black and white photos. If we use black and white photos our child sponsorship program will also be super successful. Again, the fallacy comes from not considering that Compassion International’s sponsorship program is a well-oiled machine that not only does what works but continually tests new strategies including how black and white photos impact their current results.
And of course, it’s not the digital squirrels on their website that makes World Vision the online fundraising juggernaut it is. It’s the organization’s online fundraising strategies, resources and tactics.
Charity Water, Compassion International and World Vision also have laser-focused brands that are at the heart of their donor relationships.
It’s not about what “those guys” (whoever you think you need to copy) do. It’s about why they do it. Learn the “why” if you can. Consider “why” they’d do whatever you’re tempted to copy. Figure out if and how it fits you. Then do your version of it.
You don’t have to do what “they” do. Be you. It’s lazy and rather painful to imitate. Imitation will lead to painful disappointment. Instead:
Sort out the why.
That will help separate you from the herd of other fundraisers and nonprofits.
What do you do when you’re tempted to copy? Let me know what you think.
Oh, and of course, I made up my examples about Charity Water, Compassion International, and World Vision. But the Latin and danger of copying is real.
Photo credit: phild41