Hello, I’m Jane Pfeiffer, founder and president of Fieldtrip. Fieldtrip is a marketing and branding firm dedicated to helping purpose driven organizations multiply their mission by eliminating the cost of lost opportunities. Our greatest costs are the opportunities that we never get because people don’t know about us, don’t understand what we do, or believe that it’s important. When we change that, we change everything.
Speaking of change, this is the second episode in a series of videos about change agents for nonprofits. The model and the expectations that nonprofits and really highly purpose driven organizations are held to is outdated. Things have to change. The relevance for social impact work, the need, is greater than ever, but the resistance around funding time, resources, people, skills, talents, connections, the friction is just stronger than ever as well. Relying on what used to work or what we used to do to get us to a new future, it’s not only worth believing, it’s just not possible. So the industry has to change, but I’m not here to pretend to be an expert on how to change the nonprofit. I’m here to offer advice and counsel on how marketing in its purest form can multiply missions and lift every part of the organization.
This week we’re going to talk about pain point number two. Executive leaders are disappointed that they have to constantly explain what they do and why it’s important. We often get stuck thinking that, well, if people know they’ll come, they would just care because we care so deeply, our teams care. That’s why we’re in this industry, yet it’s not the truth. People need more than awareness. They have to align with your purpose. They have to believe that solving this problem, whether it’s hunger, housing, health, education, is important. They have to believe that you’re a possible solution or at least resolving and improving upon that problem. Or even better, they have to agree to take action in supporting you. Finally, that advocacy level where they’re championing you, they’re bringing and introducing you to other people, and what you do is part of their identity. You have those in your organization, and ultimately the more you have, the more powerful an impact you can have on your mission.
The term advocacy is often thought about legislative and policy focused work, and that is true. But we’re using advocacy today to talk about creating champions for your mission that help you do the work, and by spreading the news of what you’re doing, they are marketing for you. How do we help that happen? Well, we have to understand that when we explain what we do, we’re losing. We so often get caught up in the need to explain and the details of how we get the work done, where it happens, what it looks like, that we completely skip the bigger picture. Let’s walk through what all that means today. What the antidote is, is to inspire with impact. That’s what we lead with – not the explanation.
Let’s jump right into the change agent for this particular episode. Last week, we talked about pain point number one, and that’s that the mission has never been more relevant, but the friction and everything around it is also increasing. The way to create some efficiencies is to put the one audience first and all the others will follow. Most often that one audience is the beneficiary, and when you focus on them, the rest come along. Today we’re going to focus on the pain point that leaders are so disappointed and frustrated that they have to constantly explain what they do and why it’s important we get caught up in the belief that if people knew of us, they would care, they would act, they would support it. It’s way too simplistic and that’s not true. People have to be aware, yes, but they also have to think that the problem you’re solving is important. Then they have to see you as a problem solver in that category. They have to pick you over all the others that might be in a similar sector. Ultimately, what marketing and communications needs to do is convert those who act with us as advocates for what we do not in the legislative and policymaking space, but becoming our champions and taking our work and the impact of our work to their friends, their family, their circles.
The antidote to this pain is to inspire with mission impact, not the work. One of the examples I’ve used many times in this mission multiplier series is the fact of– not the fact, but the example of a nonprofit saying We feed 500 children breakfast every morning before school. That’s explaining what you’re doing. When you say we’re feeding or nourishing the minds of tomorrow, that’s inspiring.
How is that different? Well, let’s talk about it first. You have to believe that when you’re explaining, you’re losing people’s time and attention because they’re stuck figuring out, does this detail even matter to me? My children weren’t hungry for breakfast, so why don’t other parents just feed them breakfast? It’s not that hard to make toast. I’m being facetious, but again, just over-exaggerating to think about when you’re explaining, people relate it. Everything we tell people, they relate it back to their own personal experiences. That example just gets them lost in the details of their their own lived experiences. We have to instead provoke interest, just like a good story doesn’t lead with the ending that Cinderella marries the prince in this story. It it begins with interest. That impact that we make is the pivotal point. When you focus on the details, you become an issue. So let’s use that example of breakfast before school. It gets into what do you feed them? How many where does that happen? How do you make that possible? All the details, right? Our listeners looking for context instead draw a correlation between the impact of the mission and solving a social justice. So make a big, bold promise that we’re here to make sure every child has a nutritious start to the day. Every child’s mind is primed for learning. Every child. It’s big. It’s not 500 because this is where you’re headed and the problem that you’re solving long term, when you focus on the belief or the essence, that essence is nourishing minds of tomorrow, a phrase that is three words and two letters long. That’s what provokes people because they’re thinking, what does that mean? What does that look like? Well, why aren’t children’s minds nourished already? They’re going to ask you a more thought provoking question then what do you feed them? And again, it’s the simpler, the better, and the more inspirational, the stronger. So what does that look like? How can you know that you’re there?
Today we’re going to talk about an example for a purpose-driven organization in education. They offer career and technical education, and there is a stigma associated that such learning is less than the college path. When asking leaders within this organization what they do, we got a lot of answers like this. Well, there’s, you know, dual credits. It’s nontraditional format. There’s internship co-ops, hands on learning certifications. We have physical buildings, all of these details and then some got into a little higher level of, well, problem solving skills. We accelerate careers. We’re a hub of resources. But the person who gave the strongest opinion was the student, the current student who’s in there, and her comments varied differently from everybody else’s. It was the why am I learning? It was the answer to why am I learning this stuff? It’s more than books. It’s about kind of cutting the fluff or having the knowledge, but then learning how to apply knowledge, not because the student has opted into a path that is less than a career or college path. It’s because it is more than to certain students. It doesn’t have to be a replacement for college. It can be a path to college where you’ve tested and prepared in a different way than what we see as the traditional college path. Now I’m getting on my soapbox of education, but when you think about these three columns, the answers are very different because in the first column, these are emotional descriptors, these prompt. What do you mean? It’s more than books. Cut the fluff for me. If I was a student, I’m all in. Am I ever going to use this calculus? Am I ever going to learn how to use or apply matrices to my professional career? Still haven’t to this day, so the thought often plagues me. Then once we put them in an emotional space, we can then rationalize that emotion with, well, here’s what it feels like. Then and only then, go to the tactical. When we lead with “here’s how we do it,” we never get to the emotional space. The emotional space is where we advance our relationships with our different audiences. That applies to our employees, our beneficiaries, our donors, our community partners, everyone. Every introduction needs to be in the emotional space.
To give you a quick example, if I said that career technical education was hands on learning, great, where does it happen? What does that look like? How many, you know, or what are the what are you know, what equipment is used. But when we say, hey, career technical education is the answer for students that ask, why am I learning this? We’re provoking interest that has people wondering, I don’t even know what that means. So tell me more. And at the end of the day, that’s what we want. So stop explaining because you’re losing time, money and interest, and lead with the impact of the work lead with inspiration. That’s the change agent for today. Thanks for watching. For more mission multiplier videos, visit wearefieldtrip.com/nonprofits.