Thursday, December 2, 2010

Al Clayton challenges the whole creative process in fundraising

Creative ideas from Al Clayton
I am at the AFP congress in Toronto, and just attended a great session from Alan Clayton, who these days is working with Ken Burnett causing trouble and challenging charity paradigms.
As well as being fun and entertaining, the session had some excellent truths. Here are my notes...
When doing creative, don't do the normal thing, ie:
What do we need to tell people?
What is our case for support?
What do we want our donors need to feel?
Get emotional resonance. Emotions trigger actions, logic only kicks in afterwards.
The first method is all about how to get a pack/campaign out without getting it wrong, or causing problems - in my words, professional competence crushing and preventing doing the 'right thing'.
All good charity fundraising must be built on emotions, designed to trigger emotions. Period. No exceptions.
Even though, when asked what they would be more likely to respond to, donors are likely to say a logical argument is more likely to get them to give, it is not true.
Logic is for focus groups, not the real world.
After donating, donors will post rationalize. But really, it was the emotion that got them to give.
Emotional impetus is important even for big, corporate gifts.
Al gave an example of the NSPCC getting a huge donation in the UK, equivalent to $10m, by getting the company directors emotionally involved.
Far too often, some professional in a charity works hard to squish emotion out - especially in corporate fundraising applications. Don't.
Logic appeals to people to shift their values, think about things. Emotion shortened this. And e best way to get that emotional response is to align with peoples values.
You can't change peoples values quickly. Al gave an example of Greenpeace trying to, with their 'Clean Seas' program to change behavior. They knew it would take a while, and it was a 25 year program. 
But with a fundraising piece we only have moments. So we need to resonate with the donors' values, straight away.
Al talked about Non-profit narcissism: 'we need, you should...' that relentless need creates poor long term gain, though good short term campaign. I think this is kind of about interpretation, and good fundraising really does need to convey need (else there is no action) and the examples he gave demonstrated need, so perhaps it is more how you demonstrate need.
(I think that the 'we need, you should' angle can work in some communications, but needs to be balanced with good donor care, feedback and telling a long story developing with the donor relationship but I accept that this rarely happens. Charities get trapped in the 'we need, you should' thing, because most charities really look at short term only, and struggle justifying non direct cash raising communications).
Al talked about how we need to get fury and love at the same time. Like parents. Brilliant creative should get euphoria and fury working well. I love this, but it is really, really hard. Charities talk about having direct mail letters that are 'much more positive' but this is not what Al means. Good fundraising letters demonstrate need with hope.
Greatest mistake in fundraising is telling people about 'us', not 'them'.
The old creative process
  • Case for support
  • Brief
  • Assemble the tools
  • Bolt it together from facts
  • Concept
  • Copy
  • Design

FAILS because it is not about feelings

Replace it with a more simple approach:
Emotionally resonate with audience, then do the brief. Get yourself in the mood before doing creative
We saw lots of brilliant examples, which I can't paste here (pictures etc). Go see him at a conference some time.
Oh, one last point - Good creatives are moody. For a reason and good creative makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up - not what ticks the boxes.
Disaster Fundraising Guide download it here