I was listening to a senior expert explain “fundraising 101” to a bunch of novice organizations. She paused at the very end and suddenly thought of one more thing to say: “Tonight you heard me talk about emotional triggers and other ‘tricks’ of the marketing trade. And maybe you’re thinking, ‘I don’t want to manipulate anyone into giving.’

“Well,” she smiled in her warm way, “don’t worry! It’s not manipulation. You’re just plugging into people’s own values and emotions. They are predisposed to give. All you’re doing is putting in front of them a ripe opportunity to express that predisposition.”

And I’m thinking, What’s wrong with manipulation? I think manipulation is great. Otherwise, nothing would ever get done! Isn’t even the humble paycheck a form of manipulation?

True: most messages never come close to manipulating anyone. And that goes triple for the lame-ass advertising that nonprofits almost universally ooze (top-shelf direct mail being the shining exception).

Don DraperAnd Then There’s Mad Men

I mean, just look at all the incredible advances that manipulation has already brought to Western society.

We obsess over our breath, our odor, our teeth, our weight, our age, our status, our hipness, our connectedness, our relevance, our happiness.

Proposed, then …

… in honor of manipulation’s keen ability, in competent hands, to significantly shift social norms …

… a new set of ad messages for the nonprofit sector:

  • You will never find love if you don’t give to charity
  • Your breath stays fresh when you give to charity
  • The good people give to charity
  • “I never really noticed her … until she gave to charity.”
  • You’re smarter when you give to charity
  • Are you man enough to give to charity?
  • Generosity is the kind of beauty only charity can buy
  • Unwanted facial hair’s a thing of the past when you give to charity

P.S. – This is not a joke.

This post originally appeared on Ahern Communications, Ink.

Tom Ahern
Author of four books, Tom Ahern is considered one of the world’s top authorities on donor communications.
Tom Ahern

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