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Diversity Requires Effort, Not Merely a Posture

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

Nonprofits know they need to better diversify their marketing efforts.  New research shows that most companies do a poor job of advertising to ethnic minorities.  (When asked for an effective brand, most respondents couldn’t name one.)

To ensure that your nonprofit is in the forefront of constituents’ minds, what can you do? It will take more than being available for them to contact, donate and volunteer!  You will have to learn how to appeal to the various segments of people in your target markets.  Most likely, they each have their own special wants, needs, likes, dislikes and preferences.

In addition to understanding the ethnic makeup of your supporters, many other demographics are necessary, but it doesn’t stop there – and you shouldn’t presume to know without due diligence.  Many people will make assumptions about age, for example, rather than doing research.

A common misperception has to do with age and technology.  Often, people take for granted that Boomers (and older) are not online, don’t donate online and don’t use cell phones, texting, etc., while Millenials are the primary consumers of all things technical, leaving those in between somewhere in the middle.  This is a dangerous assumption, not to mention full of holes.

Research is showing that smartphone penetration is not only increasing across all markets, but Gen X and Y account for the largest market share.  In addition, all segments donate online, and Convio’s The Wired Wealthy study dispels myths about online gifts only coming from younger, smaller donors.

When looking at differences between the genders, it’s been established that women – particularly wealthy women – drive the philanthropic decisions in most households, so particular attention must be paid here, not only to the type of appeal, but in details such as follow up, acknowledgment, etc.  It’s important to most women donors that they learn about how their donation is being used and what affect it has had.  Not providing personal, meaningful feedback is a sure way to lose women donors.

A subset of Millenials has been identified recently – the Post88s.  GirlApproved has identified this demographic as a separate segment of female consumer/donor who responds differently than her predecessor, and therefore, will require a different marketing pitch.  Would you agree?

Another thing we know is that women spend more time on social networking than men do, while men spend a greater amount of time watching videos online, and the amount of video consumed is increasing substantially.  These are things to keep in mind when preparing your campaigns.

You still may have a couple of annual or semi-annual appeals that you want to send across the board, but clearly, it will help to really study your constituents and understand how they exist in smaller clusters of people, too.  Have they been long time supporters for years, or are they specifically donors to your XYZ fund?  Do they always attend your spring event?  Are they inclined to volunteer?  What sets them apart from other constituents?  How do they typically respond?

The need for segmentation was recently demonstrated by a Dunham + Company study which showed that email length and relevance were the most important factors compelling donors to either respond or disengage from a campaign.  Surprisingly, frequency of communication was not among the complaints found.  Effective, targeted – and concise – messaging is what’s most desired.

Diversity also includes more than ethnicity, age and gender.  How accessible is your organization to people with various disabilities?  When you hold an event, are you certain that it is wheelchair accessible?  Do you ask on your registration forms if attendees will need interpretive services for the deaf?  What about your website?  You may be planning to make it mobile-friendly in 2012, but what about making it equal access for the blind?

Of course, a nonprofit that does or doesn’t dedicate itself to true diversity in marketing most likely has a parallel situation internally.  Much of the problems an organization has with their prospecting approach begins with internal issues, such as lack of diversity with their staff and board.  This hasn’t changed much over the years.

When all the ideas are coming from one type of perspective, it’s not surprising that there’d be a homogenous approach resulting from the organization.  There’s even a greater danger when all the power is resting with one set of individuals over another, staffing-wise.  This is when power corrupts.  Diversity has many benefits.

Marketing with old stereotypes and assumptions just won’t cut it any longer, even if you do segment.  Consumers and donors are more demanding now.  If you want them to remember you (fondly), you’ll have to work for it.

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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Fix It Or Forget It?

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

Molly* approached me about how to deal with a troubling issue without clear protocols: sexual harassment that couldn’t be reported to HR, because it wasn’t from a coworker, but other peers in the industry during training or networking events.

“I saw that you had recently been blogging about topics dealing with attending conferences,” she told me, “And I hoped that you’d address the issue of networking gone sour, but I didn’t see it, so I wanted to ask you directly for some advice on the issue.”

I told Molly that she was by no means the first person to mention this or to have it happen – and not just at larger conferences, but also during smaller gatherings, such as one day seminars or half-day workshops, or less formal networking events, such as happy hours.

“Oh, I definitely see people step over the line during events that have more alcohol,” Molly told me.  “In fact, I’ve made it a policy not to go to them alone.  I always find another woman to attend them with me, and either I leave when she does, or, if I can’t find a companion, I don’t attend.  Period.”

Molly’s most recent incident occurred while she was in a social gathering with nearly a dozen people, but as she was networking (she thought), one man in particular began by showing interest in her career and mentioning people he could introduce her to . . . only to make more and more off-color jokes as he ingested more drinks after dinner.

“At first, I told myself that it was simply the alcohol talking, since he was professional prior to drinking so much,” Molly said, “But at an event with hundreds of people over the next day and a half, he seemed to ‘bump into me’ quite a bit.  And his comments and jokes continued until the end, including an inappropriate offer.  I had difficulty enjoying the conference, frankly.”

“It didn’t seem to make any difference when I tried to emphatically mention my husband, since he was married, too.  He was – or pretended to be, more likely – oblivious to my declining of his advances and offers.”

“After I returned home, I was a bit surprised – not to mention revolted! – to have gotten an invitation to connect on LinkedIn,” Molly said.  “I mean, it took a lot of work on my part to remember the good things about my time at the conference, and not let him ruin it for me!  WHY would I drag the bad part home and continue any more of it?”

I told Molly that, although the experience was definitely a negative one that she didn’t want to repeat, since it wasn’t in her day-to-day workplace, she did have the option to Forget It! and purge this man from her life, essentially.  Beyond that, we wanted to work on some preventative tools in case something similar occurred in the future.

Her idea of teaming up at social gatherings was a good one, and had been serving her well, but as she discovered, there would still be times when she would be on her own, social setting or not.  Cheating herself out of career networking opportunities because of the jerk potential wasn’t really a good long term strategy.  Instead, we worked on her defense mechanisms and behavior toward said jerks.

Many women, particularly those in service-type positions, are very uncomfortable taking an aggressive stance.  Not only does society in general condition women to be polite and non-confrontational, but for anyone who works in a service-oriented profession, they, too, are coming from a position of, “How can I help you?”

It’s a double whammy for women in these professions to counter both layers of conditioning and go on the offensive, so to speak; however, this is the stance that is absolutely necessary for dealing with sexual harassers.  They are counting on not being challenged – and if they are, their immediate response will be that they have been “misunderstood,” “taken out of context,” or in some other way, it is the fault or shortcoming of the victim they are trying to intimidate.  (“Can’t you take a joke?”)

A more effectively disarming response is a cold stare, accompanied by, “I don’t think that’s appropriate,” “No, I don’t think so,” or “Obviously not,” and so forth.

When reviewing what had happened with Molly, and how she thought things might have been different had she initially responded negatively, instead of trying to be polite, understanding or forgiving, Molly realized that it would have been a much better conference.  Either she would have “insulted” him to the point he didn’t speak to her anymore (fine), or he would have gotten the message and behaved more appropriately (also fine).

Since Molly strongly prefers either of these outcomes in the future, she plans to execute one – or more – of the disarming responses we’ve rehearsed if and when she encounters a jerk atmosphere while networking.

When Nina* got downsized from her sales and marketing position, income was a concern, and she wanted a job – any job – right away.  She preferred to get something comparable in her field again, but in the meantime had to pay her bills.  I suggested that she take a position waiting tables at a local restaurant.  This would make good use of her sales skills, and free up her daytime hours when she did get interviews scheduled.

Getting hired as a waitress didn’t take very long, and I coached Nina on how to make the most of that position, while we were still working on finding her a job in her chosen field.  I pointed out to her that being successful at waiting tables, like her previous position, depended upon working well with other departments and distinguishing herself and her talents from the rest of the staff.

For example, I encouraged Nina to make a point not only to say “Hello” to the staff members in the kitchen, bar, hostess stand and bus stand, but to learn everyone’s name as best she could.  She also went beyond her waiting duties and helped out when she had an extra minute to refill condiments in the kitchen, garnishes in the bar, or clear a plate or two on the tables for the bussers, and so forth.

She soon noticed that, during busy times, her special orders were given special attention in the kitchen, her drinks came out a little faster from the bar, and when there were many dirty tables, hers got cleaned and reset a bit faster than the others, which turned into more revenue for her over time.

Nina also networked with the other servers, and picked up additional shifts of theirs when she could.  Not only did she want the additional income, but there were times when she was scheduled for day shifts that would occasionally conflict with an interview, and I pointed out that the best way to ask for a favor was from someone for whom she had already done a favor.  This strategy helped her be versatile and available whenever interviews did come along.

Of course, Nina was also already good at sales, so she suggested additional menu items, such as appetizers and desserts, upsold the brands of liquor, and generally made her customers feel welcome.  Management soon noticed the trends in her sales and customer feedback, including some customers who started requesting being seated in her section.

Within about a year, Nina had only had a couple of job offers in her field, but the pay was so poor, it didn’t even compete with what she was making waiting tables, so she turned them down.  Shortly after, the restaurant manager approached her about becoming the marketing director for the restaurant, due to the talent she had demonstrated there, combined with her people skills working with the staff.

Nina was a bit stunned but pleased to Fix It! by getting promoted back to what she had been doing, from what was only supposed to have been a temporary part-time job.  She got her “new” job without an interview, since her boss already knew her, and ended up making almost as much as her previous salary.  Not only did she have very little training required, but she was pleased to learn that she had a great deal more creative control, because management had a lot of faith in her judgment and talent from the start.

Do you have a Fix It or Forget It? story to share?  Send it to me, and it might help others.  Identifying features will be altered prior to publishing.

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Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
—  Rita Mae Brown

Similar Posts:

Opal* and Peter* deal with workplace issues

Gloria* and Herman* manage the subtle disrespect of coworkers

The three basic types of nonprofit workers


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