Cheryl Snapp Conner Strategy

What Gives a Program Wings?

T here’s a particular challenge in the marketing of social responsibility causes. By their very nature, these programs are founded on principles of doing good. But the altruistic core of these projects is dangerously seductive: How could an idea fail when it is so badly needed, and when the motives for proceeding are so important and pure? So there we have it.Thousands of nonprofits are abounding to advance hundreds of worthy ideas. But only some of these causes take fire and move people to action, while many others achieve only marginal progress or fade away entirely. What makes the difference? Why do some ideas and practices spread while others simply die on the vine? There are any number of reasons a foundation may succeed or fail but, where marketing is concerned, here are a few of the primary secrets that destine a campaign or an idea to success or failure. What’s your motivation? When I speak with the heads of social responsibility programs, it’s fairly easy to identify the full motives behind a campaign. In many cases, the program is well-researched and well-founded, such as working with veterans to address the issues of PTSD. But in other cases, it’s quickly apparent that the reasons for moving forward with an idea have more to do with the founder than the needs of the community to be served. “I used to be homeless. Now I want to travel and

speak about my story to others. The people who hear me should be inspired. So I need to find sponsors.” Or “I had cancer and, when I lost my hair, a photographer chronicled that part of my history. The photos became part of an exhibit and became very important to me. So I want to publish them broadly to find sponsors and to create a team of photographers of my choosing who will now provide that experience under my direction to others.” If the deepest motivations for proceeding with the campaign are about you, the idea will be compelling to you and to your close friends, but will be less than ideal as a way to gain traction beyond your immediate circle of friends. Test your idea carefully for size of audience and immediate applicability, and determine the amount of real impact you could make before you bring your campaign out to the world. Have you identified the right targets?For example, an innovator named Oz Schaefer has identified a technology that can accurately and objectively identify the symptoms of concussions. But how and where would be the best way to bring this technology forward? Going to professional or college sports would require breaking through the barrier of all other programs in place, even though his own is much more effective. But what about parents and children? And, particularly, what about the parents of children who aren’t involved in competitive sports? By demonstrating the data on concussions that children experience

30 I Nonprofit Performance Magazine

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