Many of you probably know (or know of) Katya Andresen and Katya’s Nonprofit Marketing Blog. She is an expert on marketing, a great speaker (I’ve heard her a couple of times), and a relentless blogger. (She posts almost every day. My hat is off, in awe, to her.) She does not present herself as an arts expert. However, in a recent post she presented 3 Diagnoses for why your message isn’t getting through. I can’t resist allowing her to make one of my central points, so I am going to present (i.e., steal) the first two here:
#1: “Field of Dreams” syndrome. Those who have this disease believe that, “If you build it, they will come.” If you have FODS, you think that if you build a website and stick a DonateNow button on it, donors will arrive and click. This disease also manifests itself as an assumption that uttering your mission statement will inspire people to give. If you find yourself saying, “If people only knew, they would…,” then you have FODS. Declaring your existence is not a marketing campaign. It is a symptom of FODS. The cure? You need to reach out to people and build relationships with them. Then maybe they’ll want to support you. [Emphasis mine, I’ll confess.]
A part of me is tempted to stop and let the reader draw his or her own (obvious) conclusions. That would be a bit like my trick in class of asking students why I told a particular story. But, lest any deem me lazy, let me simply say, once again, “It’s all about relationships.” Ms. Andresen is not primarily a crusader for engagement. She is a crusader for effective marketing. Her message, however, puts my passion for engagement on the side of the marketing angels. In other words, substantive engagement (relationships) with the community is ultimately the most solid foundation for the improvement of marketing results. In order to enhance its marketing (and fundraising) efforts, the arts world needs to enhance its skills in community engagement.
#2: “It’s all about us” disease. Nonprofits suffering from this disease are easy to spot—their home pages, emails and all of their correspondence reads like an “About Us” page. Sometimes, this ailment is called “Nonprofit Narcissism.” Mission statements, the history of your organization and other related details should not be found everywhere and do not constitute a strong message. The cure? Make it about your supporters, not you. Why should they care? What can they accomplish? How have they changed the world with their support?
This is simply practical advice about how to be seen as an approachable partner. I’ll let arts organizations out there hold this particular mirror up to their website (and their organization generally) to see whether they see themselves.
Today I’ll plug another arts neighbor, this one in Greensboro, NC, that sees itself as a community citizen. Elsewhere is a gallery, self-described community center, and residency venue for artists from around the country. [NOTE: Sections of their website are under re-construction. You might want to come back in the future to check them out more thoroughly.]
Elsewhere is a living museum set inside a former thrift store. Our three story building, housing one woman’s 58 year collection of thrift and surplus, has become a living installation curated by hundreds of contributors over a 9 year period. Today, Elsewhere is a space to investigate creative collaboration, through our living museum, community events, international residency program, and educational initiatives.
Earlier this month they held a storefront lecture on community health and sustainability. [That link is how I was notified of the event.] It’s all about developing relationships with the community!