Thinking out of the (tea) box

It’s our job as professional fund-raisers to engage, excite and, if necessary, wake up our donors.

"Reuth" means friendship. (photo credit: Courtesy)
"Reuth" means friendship.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The pictures and messages are the same, year after year, Passover after Passover, as are the techniques and methods used by most amutot (NGOs) in Israel to draw our attention to the plight of the needy, the hungry or the sick. However, this year it seems donors are getting tired, and even worse becoming increasingly apathetic.
It’s our job as professional fund-raisers to engage, excite and, if necessary, wake up our donors. fund-raisers have to employ the best marketing, promotional and creative techniques to catch donors’ interest in our fast-paced and technology-orientated society.
At the Institute of Fund-raising Annual Convention in London, I could see and feel the dynamism, the creativity and the new Fund-raising ideas flourishing among my European colleagues. The passion and imagination on display there made up my mind: at Reuth, this Passover we were going to do it differently.
And so was born a most simple yet effective direct mail package – containing a single tea bag in a specially designed tea envelope, along with a card. The card simply read: “In these hectic days of cleaning, shopping and non-stop preparations for the upcoming hag [holiday] – Reuth sends you a moment of relaxation and self-indulgence. Brew yourself a cup of tea, and while enjoying the moment, consider how you can best assist Reuth’s patients and donate towards urgently needed rehabilitation equipment.”
Our underlying purpose was to put a smile on donors’ faces, to make them stop and think. To realize that someone had thought “out of the box” and used effective marketing techniques this Passover – to engage them and encourage them to donate.
Will it bring in more money? I sincerely hope so – but the project’s primary goal was to wake up donors, especially lapsed or dormant donors, and encourage them take action – however small.
Traditionally, as fund-raisers we have approached donors in a one-way relationship. Stimulus, response! But the emerging use of ePhilanthropy, for example, where the donor can be turned into an active partner in the donation process, has proved that the world of Fund-raising is changing. Donors now want to be motivated, even entertained and certainly to feel good about involvement in the giving process.
Of course, many Israeli amutot (NGOs) have realized that there are creative ways to approach donors, and the clever ones have reaped the rewards. Leket Israel, for example, has led the ePhilanthropy revolution in Israel and their email and Internet campaigns are always inventive and original.
Beit Issie Shapiro’s virtual shareholders campaign stands out as a wonderful example of an Amuta successfully applying the marketing techniques of the business sector to the nonprofit world. Other notable examples include Aleh, who sent its donors a cleverly designed jigsaw puzzle with a piece missing. The missing piece, with the word “YOU” on it, was sent to donors following their donation, along with their receipt.
Chabad Children for Chernobyl produced an entire Monopoly box game, with all the game’s well-loved elements adapted to their unique message as a children’s non-profit. This perfectly aided their main campaign to build a new building, with every “property” representing another room in the new building. Brilliant, and fun!
Today, the fund-raiser has to re-pack his toolbox. The modern donor expects the same novel and fashionable approach to philanthropy that he is exposed to daily in the barrage of promotions, media and marketing that envelops us.
And sometimes it’s something as simple as a cup of tea – sent in a creative marketing package – that can make all the difference.
Hag Passover Sameah!
The writer has close to 30 years of hands-on Fund-raising and non-profit experience in Israel and abroad. [email protected]