Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler in Fifty First Dates

Whether you know me or not, we’re about to get personal.

A week ago I went on my first “first date” in 26 years.

Here’re some interesting things to consider. The last time I went on a first date…

  • I was using a typewriter to write my term papers.
  • Will Smith was still the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
  • Dinosaurs roamed the earth. Okay maybe not, but sometimes it feels that long ago.

Yes, a few things have changed in our world since that time. I’m most definitely no longer a high school senior (my oldest daughter now holds that title). And yet, as the adage goes, the more things change the more they stay the same. 26 years later I find myself in two similar predicaments:

  1. Attempting to find my soulmate, or at least a hiking partner with whom I can enjoy a glass of wine afterwards.
  2. Studying for major exams. Not the SATs, but instead the glamorous world of being a Certified Fund Raising Executive.

So drumroll please…    may I present…

6 Things you can learn about marketing by examining my love life

  1. Know your audience so that you can target yourself to them.

When I connect with people, the first thing I attempt to do is get to know their interests. This way I can relate to things we have in common. You’re originally from San Diego? Have you ever seen the sunset from La Jolla Shores? Beautiful! You are a professional drag-racer? Ummmm, swipe left?

Take time to get to know both your current and prospective donors. Read the profiles on the foundations you’re looking at. This will let you accomplish two things: 1) weed out the irrelevant ones and 2) have a starting point for your conversations.

  1. Create a mutually beneficial transaction.

On my date last week we went to an oyster bar. While no one is going to convince me to put slimy bits of raw seafood into my mouth, I was open to compromise because they had good beer. So each of us got something enjoyable out of the venue.

The truth is, people want to know what’s in it for them. Keep the focus of your audience in mind in all avenues of your marketing. Through your emails, conversations, and actions demonstrate to your audience (whether that’s donors, clients, or dates) how they will benefit by being involved with you.

  1. Do a limited number of things really well.

If you are looking for a partner for a week-long canoe trip in the wilderness, I’m your girl. Even though I’ve never really canoed before, you say campfire, I say let’s go! However, if you are looking to bring a +1 to all the New York Giants games this season, you’d best look elsewhere. I just can’t fake that interest.

The same goes for your organization. If you offer soccer programs for inner-city kids, consider adding a mentoring component if that’s what your clients and donors are asking for, but don’t try to create a marching band to go after the grant from the music foundation. Stick to what you know. There’re plenty of futbol lovers out there.

  1. Communicate your activities to your target audience.

I have to admit that sometimes I have a lot of self-doubt. The negative part of my brain sometimes tells me “what do you know that everybody else doesn’t already know?” But then I’ll have a conversation and spout some random fact like “Owls have 3 eyelids” and it’s like I’ve let people in on a mystery of the universe.

As much as you take for granted what your organization has accomplished, DO NOT ASSUME your donors know. You know what happens when you assume right? To build your presence you have to share, share, and share again. Shout it from the highest treetops. Let people know that through your work, they are solving the problems that they care so deeply about.

  1. Be open to change, but don’t compromise your values.

Let’s face it, I’m not in high school anymore and the dating pool has shrunk considerably. I want to meet people, but I no longer spend 6 hours a day with 2,000 age-appropriate potential soulmates, and I’ve quickly learned that the bar is not the place to find my “target audience.” That has left me at the threshold of the land of online dating sites. Not my ideal, but as long as I figure out the delicate balance between keeping my options open (yes, you can enjoy the oysters) and knowing what my limits are (professional drag-racer – sorry, but no), I’m up for the adventure.

So have conversations with your stakeholders, and ask them what activities and outcomes they get excited about. Keep current on the trends in nonprofit development, but realize you don’t have to jump on every ice-bucket challenge. However, if there’s a way you can add value and still stay true to your mission, don’t be afraid to try something new.

  1. Concentrate your efforts on audiences with the characteristics you’re looking for.

One thing 26 years has done for me – I finally know what I want. I actually wrote a list of what qualities I’m looking for in a relationship. This keeps me from frantically copying and pasting the same message to every single guy out there in online dating land.

The first thing you should do before you start marketing is get REALLY clear with your mission and vision. Then, when you’re scouring the Internet for potential matches, be they donors or love interests, focus on those that you have things in common with already. Key words are a wonderful invention. This way you have greater chances of having a positive match and that they’ll be more receptive to you and your cause.

So there you have it, advice straight from the fundraising textbooks, hopefully presented in a way that didn’t put you to sleep. Whether you’re working for a nonprofit or corporate America, or even just trying to figure out your own love life, I hope that you can find some creative ways to put this to good use.

You may be wondering how the date went? Well, to be honest, I didn’t find my soulmate this time around, but I also didn’t turn into a pile of blubbering jello. I had fun and actually enjoyed taking the first step on this latest life adventure.

If you’re not already on my mailing list, JOIN NOW for nonprofit development ideas (and brief voyages into my personal life). If you want to dive in further with content writing and marketing plans, email me at [email protected].

Thanks for reading, and if you know of any eligible professional, intelligent, educated, nature-loving, adventure-bound, compassionate hikers living in the mid-Hudson Valley, feel free to send them my way :D.