Monthly Archives: December 2011

New Year’s Eve is giving prime time

Bags of discarded decorations are out on the curb. Needles from the tree coat the floor. The lethargy of holiday merriment persists. But for charities this is no time to rest. Between Christmas and New Years is prime time for ‘generous procrastinators’.

So says a seven year study by Network for Good. We all know that December is the traditional top month for charitable giving. A third of charities’ online donations are made in December. Perhaps more remarkable, says the study: “22 percent of online gifts are made in the last two days of the year.”

The study found that the primest prime time for online giving occurs on December 31 between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. in the donor’s time zone.

Make sure all systems and backup systems are go for these crucial year end days. Send out that final reminder email. And then have yourselves a very happy new year!

Forget the funny and focus on loyal donors at Christmas

Banned Nando's Chicken ad

Banned Nando's Chicken ad

It’s darn hard to be funny—and to get your point across, especially at Christmas.

A perfect case in point in the Nando’s Chicken ad called “The Last Dictator Standing.” It is guffaw-level funny in its depiction of Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe frolicking with his former fellow autocrats to the tune of “Those were the days, my friend” prior to sitting down by himself at a Christmas banquet and a bucket o’ chicken. There’s a great punch line that I won’t spoil for you.

But Mugabe supporters didn’t think it was so funny and threatened Nando’s Chicken outlets in Zimbabwe. The South African company was forced to pull the ad out of circulation.

The Toronto charity, War Child, also tried a funny that flopped. Last Christmas, they put out two ads poking fun at tacky, useless Christmas presents. The tagline was: “Bad gifts don’t save lives. War Child gifts actually do.” They admitted that the ads did very poorly, but chalked it up to too crowded a market place over the prime time for charitable giving.

Both ads, however, proved an opposite case to the statement of the tagline and didn’t make sense. In both cases, the tacky presents actually saved lives. In one, a woman putting up a string of Christmas lights falls backwards and lands on a big, gaudily-wrapped pillow. In the other one, a man manages to give himself the Heimlich maneuver on a gilted leopard statue. Both lives saved by bad presents.

It left me scratching my head.  I do agree however with Stephen Jurisic, partner and creative director at John St who created the ad when asked what non-profits should do during the holidays.

“My advice would be to stay very focused on the loyal donors that you have, especially if you’re a small to medium-sized organization,” he says. “Do something more engaging at a less crowded time.”

John Deere has the next generation in its headlights

John Deere's massaging corn teether

In the centre fold of the Globe and Mail recently was an article on philanthropy outlining a troubling trend. The amount of charitable donations is bouncing back and the number of givers is up (comparing 2009 to 2010 stats). This is the happy news. At 53 however, the median age of the givers hasn’t changed in over a decade. That’s the troubling part.

The question for charities is how to attract younger donors, especially when lessons of generosity are often taught through religious institutions, which are also failing in our country.

Perhaps we should be taking a lesson from John Deere. I was on the hunt recently for a massaging corn teether for a very new relative. It’s a clever little gizmo that looks like a smily-faced cob of corn and when it is gnawed on by a discontented teether, it emits a soothing buzzzzzzzzzzz. The packaging indicates that it also teaches cause and effect—a very good lesson for a baby who might grow up on a farm and need to know the immediate ramifications of throwing a rock at a bull.

On a trip out of town, I came across a John Deere dealership and stopped in to have a look. The yard around the store was neatly filled with big-boy John Deere mechanisms. Inside, I was amazed to find clearly one-third of the store taken up with little-boy toys (the gender bias is profound … but that’s another story). Every real-live John Deere has a mini version, all in their carefully branded green and yellow.

On a website where they describe their brand, they are very intentional about wanting to build their business on the sons and grandsons (their words) of this generation of farmers. Every time a little boy climbs on a replica of a tractor pulling a round baler (package of four round bales sold separately), he imprints like a gosling with its mama. Brilliant.

At 174 years old as a business, I’d say they have developed an enduring brand. They were #98 in the top 100 brands in the world this year.

So, the question remains. How do today’s charities build linkages with the next generation of givers? Good examples include fluffy stuffed animals from WWF and those nifty magnets that hold pictures of sponsored children nose-height on fridges across the country.  What can you do to ingrain on the children and grand children of your most valued donors?