Sunday, September 20, 2009

Making a Big, Damn, Difference

Recently, I unplugged. I decided to unplug from the socially-networked world and just be quiet. I found myself getting caught up in all the hype and frenetic pace of blogging, twittering, RSS-ing, and Facebooking that I forgot what I was doing there in the first place. You see, I started this blog because I wanted to equip and enable marketers to increase their ability to market for good (and yes, the double entendre is intended). But what I found was that I started posting just to keep up rather than because I had something to say that was important.

Earlier this month, marketing celebrity and pontificater Seth Godin wrote a blog entry entitled The Problem with Non. I think it's safe to say that non profit marketers and leaders got their underpants in a twist over the things he noted. Seth being right or wrong isn't the point of this blog entry. Many have already voiced their opinions to what he said (read here, here, and here). What struck me, and frankly pulled me from my self-imposed social media fasting, was that non profits continue to struggle to find their own voices.

Even in a sea of communications options, and with decades of instruction on how to craft stories, generate dialogue, and connect on an intimate level with communities, most non profits still fail at what I think is the single most important part of what they do -- telling the world why they are the only option for solving the problem they address. Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead said it best, "
You don't want to be considered the best at what you do. You want to be the only one doing what you're doing." I love that.

To me, it isn't (as Seth notes) that non profits have failed at taking advantage of social media, but that most interactions with non profits are non events in themselves. Godin asks, "When was the last time you had an interaction with a non profit that blew you away?" Sadly, I think the answer is not frequently enough.

YES, there are non profits out there that are changing lives via one, two, or two hundred people at a time. YES, there are non profits that are making a difference in the world by building schools, feeding the hungry, digging wells, and even holding the hand of a lonely person who is on their death bed. YES, there are non profits that are blowing people away on a regular basis. But again, I think those are the exceptions, not the rule.

Finding our voices as non profits isn't about finding the tool to carry it. It's about being unique, being special, being the only ones. It's about making a big-damn-difference and then TELLING and SHOWING how if you weren't there that something huge and important would be lost.

I am ranting, I know. But to me we have an important opportunity right now to do our craft not just accept the mediocrity forced upon us by our tight budgets or lack of resources. We have an opportunity to become the topic, become the solution, and become the voice that is heard from the mountain tops.

Earlier I noted that I took some time off to stop and listen. To unplug. I think that break was refreshing. It reminded me of my own purpose, and got me thinking about how non profits market -- and what we do well and what we fail to do. So, here's to a reenergized season of marketing for good. And while we're on this journey together, let's see if we can become the big-damn-difference we're trying to make in the world.

-- David Kinard, PCM

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