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Nonprofit Marketing with Aspirins

Heath Aspirin



Nonprofit Marketing

What do you do when you’ve got a really slamming headache? A few years ago, I read a column in Fast Company by Dan and Chip Heath, Turning Vitamins into Aspirins: Consumers and the Felt Need.

“If entrepreneurs want to succeed, as venture capitalists like to say, they’d better be selling aspirin rather than vitamins,” they advise. “Vitamins are nice; they’re healthy. But aspirin cures your pain; it’s not a nice-to-have, it’s a must-have.”

As we create products, marketing campaigns, write books, or whatever, it’s tempting to think that what we’ve created will fly off the shelf because it solves a need, when from the customer’s point of view, it may be a mere vitamin.

Marketing folks talk about benefit exchange: what do I give you, and what do you give me? If you send a fundraising letter, you’re appealing to your audience’s various needs. But the Heath brothers start with the question, What do you really need, right now? How can we eliminate your pain? If your donation can kill two birds with one stone, you may do twice as well. If you want to move your group to a new level, give something back to your supporters they truly need.

Nonprofit Marketing with Aspirin:

for the church leader. What does the congregational youth leader need? Several fun and meaningful programs each year that reinforce faith values, get kids to show up, and make the youth leader look good. If your organization can create a fundraising program that also provides that aspirin, the youth group will raise $5,000 for you and feel great about it. I know, I’ve created several programs that did just that. Everyone wins.

for the holiday shopper. It’s early December and I’ve got 20 people to buy holiday gifts for, soon. In the mail, I get a nonprofit’s catalog asking me to donate to help drill a village water well or buy a dairy goat for milk for a struggling family. And I can honor someone as my holiday gift. I’ve got five people on my list who don’t need more stuff, but who would love that I honored them in this way. They’ll get a nice card explaining, and I can avoid the mall. By sending me this catalog, the group moved from a mere fundraising appeal to actually helping me solve my immediate need.

for the schoolteacher. A program gets kids to read lots of books at that critical point where reading can become a habit. Through sponsors for each book read, it also raises funds for a nonprofit. As a bonus, the children get to experience helping others.

for the would-be carpenter. I really want to learn some basic construction skills so I can and do a few home projects better maintain my house but don’t know where to start. Then Habitat for Humanity asks for volunteers to build a house. I can volunteer and pick up those skills.

for the party-goer. Does that expensive ticket mean I have to get dressed up Saturday night and look like I’m having fun, or is it my way into the coolest event of the year?

for the gambler. Maybe your raffle gives me a chance to win an iPad or a car. Maybe I’d have a chance to win serious cash every time I swipe my electronic metro card to use public transportation (the Bus Ticket lottery in Bangalore, India).

Give me something I need and, in exchange, I’ll give you what you need: volunteer time, a donation, a share on social media. What’s your nonprofit marketing aspirin for the student who needs 40 hours of volunteer time, for the corporation that wants to brand itself as a do-gooder? What “must-have” can your group give your potential supporter?

Photo: Sauligno, Creative Commons.

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