So the last couple of weeks have been a bit of an Open America whirlwind.
It began with a meeting at the end of February with a group of big shot TV producers who had the big idea to ask their A-list celebrity friends (the likes of Alec Baldwin, Tina Fey and Tom Hanks), to take part in a telethon to raise money for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
It was going to be the first major telethon to be broadcast on Facebook using Facebook Live and it was going to be the first telethon that used brand new Facebook Donate functionality, that’s currently only available in the USA.
Plus they wanted to do it quickly. The live date was fixed for four weeks later on March 31st.
While the producers and writers are brilliant at comedy and putting on a live show, they recognised that they needed some help with the fundraising. That’s where Open America came in. A team of Open staff, (Fiona, Ali, James Dawe and me) travelled to New York and set up base in the studio where the telethon was going to be hosted.
I asked a friend who works in TV for advice before we left. She said “show no fear” and “anything is possible”. How right she was. In the ten days between landing and the show starting the team achieved an incredible amount.
But that’s just a list. What we actually did was..
But the main thing I learned is that if you put the right team together, and give them the accountability and responsibility required to deliver, they will deliver a high volume of high quality work that gets results. And it will be a lot of fun.
We’re convinced that we’ll be doing more campaigns that fuse community building and fundraising over the coming months. So if you want to know more about what we did, what we learnt and how we can apply our learnings in the UK, let me know.
Paul de Gregorio
Are brands paying more attention to charities these days? And more importantly, why?
It seems that, to meet the needs of increasingly ethically minded consumers, brands are looking within, reconnecting with their purpose. And there are some great campaigns as part of this trend.
We have Kenco’s ‘coffee vs gangs’ campaign. We have ‘Building Society, Nationwide’ a campaign delivered through poetry that cleverly spins their name into something more meaningful – helpful in re-building trust in the financial sector. There are countless more examples.
In the third sector, we need to consider the effect this ‘brand-as-cause’ trend could have on our fundraising. After all, these brands are the competition of the future, with doing good now as easy as shopping for groceries.
But before you despair at the thought of competing with big brands and their bigger budgets, have a watch of the new Pepsi advert. The ad was pulled just hours after launching over complaints it trivialises social justice movements, in particular the Black Lives Matter campaign. I’ll let you make up your own mind on that.
Pepsi may have, in their own words, ‘missed the mark’ on this one, but they’re not alone. In a world where stock cubes are the solution to homelessness, it’s clear that knowing your organisation’s purpose is more important than ever – because making it up won’t wash for a minute.
It’s not about what you do or how you do it – but WHY you exist. And the good news for our sector is, our WHY really matters. It even saves lives. Commercial brands have a way to go before they can compete with that.
I have a photo on my phone of my dear and departed dog running along the beach on a sunny day. She looks like she’s laughing and I know she was happy – and when I look at the picture I can feel that precious moment once more. It’s a bittersweet photo, but I’m so glad to have it.
We carry hundreds of those moments with us now – all we have to do is look at our phones. But how you would feel about those photos if you knew you were never going to see any of those people – your family and closest friends – again?
Millions of people across the world have left behind them homes that have since been destroyed. Their loved ones have died or disappeared. They have nothing that is familiar or comforting, until they take their phone out of their pocket.
This article about some work the photographer Alex John Beck has done recently for Oxfam renewed my firm belief that feelings can be manipulated, but they can’t be manufactured.
Empathy is so crucial to fundraising. Paint the picture, tug at the heartstrings, justify the outrage – use any and all available detail to pull the donor into the story and make them feel. And remember that sometimes the killer detail – the one that persuades a donor to give – feels the most familiar.
It is the little things that bring us together, after all.