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January 25, 2023

Mission Multiplier: Self-Diagnosis Part 3

Jane Pfeiffer

Hi. Welcome to Mission Multiplier. I’m Jane Pfeiffer, founder and president of Fieldtrip. Fieldtrip is a marketing and branding firm that helps nonprofits and purpose driven organizations close gaps, close the gaps between the people that they support and those that they need support from by creating empathy and compassion and by closing the gap and the cost of lost opportunities that really impede the impact of their mission.

For the last two weeks, we’ve been talking about the challenges of self-diagnosis in marketing. It’s almost chronic. We’re executive leaders and we’re used to tackling problems. We eat metrics for breakfast and set a goal and we’ll rush to beat it. That’s our nature and our mission and our organization needs that. Oftentimes when it comes to marketing, where we’re less familiar. In fact, what nonprofit leader do you know got into that business because they thought marketing the cause would be fun? I know there’s a few out there, but most leaders come from operations, fundraising, development, a number of sources and marketing is not really a native language in the nonprofit space. I digress, so when the time comes and you know that you have a marketing investment that needs to be made- whether that’s a website, a campaign to increase awareness and utilization or updating your brand, trust your gut. However make sure you don’t rely completely on self-diagnosis because you’re likely to be relying on what you want.

What is the key word here? We often have clients that start the conversation with “We want this, this and this.” What a marketing specialist should do is hear you and say “yes, and.” Yes and we need to probe deeper. We need to learn more. We need to make sure that those are the right need(s) or that we’re going to meet those needs in the right way. As for Fieldtrip, I make it pretty clear that no employee should talk about the agency or introduce themselves such as, “Oh yeah, at Fieldtrip we do advertising, marketing and branding.” It makes me crazy because any agency can do advertising. They can do a website and do a brand. What’s harder, but far more fulfilling is creating an asset that yes, is beautiful. Yes, it’s innovative. Yes, it’s inspirational. However its intention is to drive results that can be measured- not just felt, not just hoped for, but measured and lift the mission. Those assets belong to the nonprofit, not to the agency. Those assets just happen to look like social media designs, websites, logos, branding, all those things where the request starts so united we create.

Those are our three words. We believe that by coming together, we create impact. Let’s focus always on what comes underneath the want and make sure that we have the right need. In the past two weeks, we’ve been talking about the challenges of self-diagnosis. You can’t read the label or design it if you live inside the bottle.

We as humans and leaders often tend to focus on the treatment of the pain rather than the problem and the source of it. Then finally, neither you nor your organization are heroes. You’re not. Now you get told that from time to time and again it’s not because you’re the opposite or antithesis of a hero, which is a villain.

It’s just that’s not your role. Now, I know you’re disappointed. You don’t get to wear that cape to the office. We get caught up in our driver personality and our fierce determination that we believe that what we want is the same as what we need, and we’re here to make things better. Beneficiaries are the hero.

The organization is never the hero, it’s our job to be the mentor to bring as many beneficiaries along, to be part of their journey and help them get to a better place. When you support those, you thrive. You made an impact. This isn’t new news. The perspective is that we have to remember we’re the mentor to help others.

As a mentor, we shouldn’t present ourselves about what we do, how we teach, how we inspire, how we help, how we serve. We should focus on how what our organization does benefit you, the beneficiary. An example is there once was a client who– a member of a client team who had a website coding experience and was very vocal about what she wanted and candidly was right and had really great ideas.

We worked together to make a better product, but there were a few times where what she wanted contradicted with what we learned from the beneficiaries, what they felt like, what they needed, and what was that emotional state for when they came to the organization to ask for help. We heard them loud and clear so we made recommendations. They were accepted by the client team and then the website would be changed by this person while it was still in development to match what she needed. Obviously, it led to some difficult conversations, but what we were able to focus on together and come to an agreement is that the beneficiary is our hero, so our work needs to serve them, not what we want.

So two: You are a leader and not a producer. Yeah, I candidly stink at this one. I really struggle. Sometimes it just feels easier to fix the problem than to delegate or explain or convince. It’s candidly kind of fun to figure it out sometimes. But as consumers, we are a target for marketing messages day in and day out. We get thousands of them, and that lulls us into a false perception of being marketing experts, right? We’re surrounded by it every day. As an executive director, your responsibility isn’t to create a marketing strategy, but simply believe that such a strategy is worth the investment and then invest in the experts to do that. In the first year of my career, I’m going to tell on myself again.

I was part of an advertising club– This is cringe-worthy– and volunteered to promote our events. I was right out of college. I had yet to make any contacts in design or really even know what advertising was about because I’d studied something else. I had happened to land in this position and was figuring it out. Nevertheless I was determined to prove how much I could do on my own and I knew Publisher. It’s cringe. Why not just do it? To this day, I can see that project. Clip art, multiple clip arts- arrows and horrible black and white design on the front of that postcard and I’m just so embarrassed by it. Luckily, it was ages ago and it will never see the light of day.

I’m confessing it here now. What I focused on was getting the task done and being self sufficient. That ‘atta girl you did all this, didn’t need anybody’s help. What I forgot was the goal was to attract people in the advertising community to an event. Nonetheless, it was about tax reform and you know, you need some inspiration there.

Third, together is better and stronger. You didn’t get into this position by yourself, so why do you think you can use the same resources and get out of it by yourself? Again, it’s not a weakness, it’s just that hopefully I’ve repeated the message enough that by now. You have to have fresh perspectives- outside perspectives and expertise and input from those you serve by engaging others in your branding, website, development, campaign creation, planning and communication. You also have a team of advocates who are ready to help you launch that. Telling a story of myself when I started the agency now nearly 17 years ago, it took about 3 minutes and a handful of Post-it notes. I named it myself and it worked. The agency grew. But you know what? Everybody here referred to it as, “I work for Jane. It’s Jane’s agency,” and there were a lot of problems with that name. About seven years ago when we rebranded the process looked completely different, it did take months, not minutes, and the entire team was involved. Yes, it was more costly when you think about it. It was definitely looking at a lot of issues that we had in terms of the old brand.

The greatest result, and one I never anticipated, was that it created a team of people who felt that Fieldtrip is a place they own, they own their contribution, they own our impact, and they’re helping me build it. It’s not Jane’s agency anymore, it’s ours. To me that’s the greatest reward possible. When you think about what you want from a marketing expert and what you want from your precious marketing investment, you have to recognize to trust your gut. There is a world of difference between getting the marketing investment you deserve and just getting a project done. Don’t self-diagnose. Seek help from a professional, and when you do, you’ll reduce the expense of lost opportunities and multiply your mission. Visit for more.