Sometimes, the Same Old Thing Is a Good Thing

Two men ducking a revolt / complaints from public

Have you ever been annoyed at a company just because it made a change to its marketing or advertising campaigns? Maybe it was a business that switched its slogan for no reason; or maybe it was a firm that did a complete about-face and changed its name to something ridiculous or created a brand-new ad campaign, when the old one was working quite well. As marketing guru Seth Godin says, repetition builds trust, and consistency stands out.

Well, your donors get annoyed when you change things, too. Especially when you’re making a change just for the sake of change.

If It Ain’t Broke …

Don’t stop a campaign because you get tired of it. I’ve seen it over and over again in the nearly 30 years I’ve run Someone on the team declares “It’s time for a change!” and next thing you know, the nonprofit has a brand-new goal, or it’s rebranding; swapping out a slogan; or adopting the so-called latest and greatest thing (like AI). These changes usually come out of the blue, and almost always when there’s absolutely no need to change a thing.

First, understand that we need to hear or see a new advertisement at least 5 times before it begins to affect us. But I get it. We all become bored of the status quo at some point, especially “when we own it.”  And when that happens, for some folks it’s like a bug bite they just can’t stop scratching: They feel the need to just do something, anything, just to make a change.

But just because you’re bored with something doesn’t mean it’s not working. In marketing, consistency is the key to success.

Hey, Look—Shiny!

From calculators to will planners, cryptocurrency to AI hype, the nonprofit industry as a whole has a reputation for trying to latch on to shiny new objects, often at the expense of consistency, stewardship, and a focus on the tried-and-true staples that fund endowments and keep the lights on.

And while that reputation is deserved, some of that can be blamed on — or at least traced to — the donors themselves.

Donors can be notoriously fickle. They’ll get bored with an organization that they don’t see as innovative, even if that organization is doing a fine job of meeting its stated mission. They’ll drop an organization based on a sound bite that’s been taken out of context, or a political trend. Sometimes they’ll even try to use their dollars to pressure an organization to move in a new direction. And nonprofits are sometimes forced to jump through hoops to retain supporters.

Keep the Faith

Should a faithful donor question an organization that’s strayed from its mission? Absolutely — that’s their right. And savvy donors keep tabs on the nonprofits they support, tracking changes over time.

But nonprofits grow donor loyalty (and endowments) by staying faithful to their long-term principles and mission.

That’s not to say change is never a good thing. Organizations can find new strength simply by keeping their finger on their own pulse and making small adjustments where needed. But making change just for the sake of change is a waste of time, energy, and donor goodwill.

Just Remember … 

  • I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke
  • Think Small.
  • Just Do it.
  • Got Milk?
  • ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
  • Dumb Ways to Die
  • Yes We Can

If you are a baby boomer, these will ring in your head forever.

Still not convinced? Then just take a look at The Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign. It’s the oldest annual charitable fundraiser in the United States, and its format has changed very little over the years. Every holiday season we expect to see bell ringers outside major retailers—it’s become part of our tradition, and it raises millions every year across the country.



That’s because sometimes, the same old thing just works. 

All of our blogs, products and services are proudly conceived, created, reviewed, and disseminated by real humans — not A.I. (artificial “intelligence.”)

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