National Harbor, Md. — “I have a plan,” Martin Luther King Jr. declared from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial following the March on Washington in 1963. No, that’s not right. He said: “Team MLK is the seventh most powerful brand in advocacy.” No, that’s also incorrect. Maybe it was “we’ve empowered people to transform lives.” That’s not correct, either.
During his keynote, “How Big is Big?” at the 2017 Bridge Conference, Alan Clayton, chairman of Clayton Associates, put a bland spin on history to prove a point: Dreams need to be big, broad, and long-term. Successful organizations don’t market their own credibility. They brand the promises they make.
The most successful ambitions tend to be simple, fast and easy to digest, inspiring, and impossibility ambitious, meaning that there will always be a fundraising need, Clayton said. Organizations can focus on the why of their work, the what, or how they are doing it. Focusing on the why is what sets successful fundraising shops apart, he said.
For examples, Clayton pointed to MacMillan Cancer Support’s “no one should face cancer alone” and Save the Children U.K.’s “no child born to die” campaigns. Both ideas were big and communicated an easy-to-understand “why.” On the other hand, Action for Children highlighted the time its social workers spend with children as compared to peer organizations. The strategy didn’t work because it answered the wrong question — how as opposed to why.
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