c 2010 Barbara DeLouise

Since the recent death of Steve Jobs, there has been lots of discussion about how he changed modern culture, with all of the i-things he invented. There’s also been talk, in hushed tones, as to whether or not he should have taken some of his gazillions and changed modern life through philanthropy.

The culture of Silicon Valley and the tech crowd had been pretty mute on the topic of philanthropy, until Bill and Melinda Gates stepped it up with their Foundation in 1999. And even after that, a generation of new millionaires has not been as visible on the philanthropy scene as their predecessors like Andrew Mellon and Edsel and Henry Ford. Why? (And who cares?)

This new generation of (potential) givers is more skeptical of institutions. They are more likely to give through self-organized groups like Crowdrise than through existing foundations. If they are large institutions themselves (i.e. Gates), they may defer giving until they can create their own foundation and manage it themselves.  This is not always optimal, as there are plenty of 501(c)3’s already convened and working on the ground. But it’s the new reality of “control” we all seek through electronic and social media.  A Convio survey found that website giving increases with each younger cohort so that for Gen X it is nearly equal to mail, and for Gen Y it is greater than mail. Nonprofits with websites with videos showing demonstrable impact of donor dollars have an even bigger spike with the Gen Y donor group.  And if you’re thinking, well these young folks are pretty under-employed right now and won’t be our big donors, remember they are the Big Donors of the Future. To capture this younger generation of givers, we can’t wring our hands, but instead have to engage them where they are in meaningful, hands-on philanthropy.

How is your nonprofit engaging the younger generation of givers? How much control are they seeking over how their gifts are used? Are you finding this engagement burdensome or exciting (or both)? Please share your experiences with me for more in a future post.

Fiat is not having a stellar year. Last month the Italian carmaker had its worst results since 1996.  (Of course Fiat now holds a majority stake in Chrysler, whose sales rocketed up 27% in its best September performance in 4 years. ) Clearly the European debt crisis is affecting sales. But Fiat‘s new 500 is not selling well even in the US.  And I read in my new issue of Advertising Age  that the problem is simply lack of visibility. Fiat’s Chief Marketing Officer is quoted as saying “I don’t think we have a car problem; people love the car. I think we have an awareness problem.”  Even a spot with Jennifer Lopez couldn’t jump-start sales. (bad car joke) Here’s a little behind-the-scenes clip, if you want to know how driving scenes get made

“Amy, I know you love cars,” you are thinking, “but what on earth is your point?!”

What I’m getting at is there are plenty of organizations that have wonderful products or programs that no one knows about. An Awareness Problem, just like Fiat. And they don’t have the bucks to hire J-Lo. So what can they do?

Get your fans to promote you. And help the process along. Give them a great video they can send out links to. Create a “how to” downloadable tool they can pass along (after giving you an email address for the free download). Or simply create a Twitter hashtag for a new program, service or event. That way you and your fans can promote these but also track how well they’re faring.

Design communications that suit your customers habits on many different channels. Social networks, mobile applications, and SMS are just a few of the newer ways consumers are engaging with your content. Add that to email, direct mail and e-newsletters. The trick is what kinds of content they want from each channel. Market segmentation has been around a long time. Now the mantra is content segmentation and editing so it is the right length and style for the medium.

Timing is everything – As this great infographic by KissMetrics shows, when you send info is just as important as how.

Ask questions—A short survey can help you find out how someone reached you to make that recent purchase/donation/request for more information. And it’s amazing how many organizations don’t ask their members/donors for input. That will help you make better decisions about reaching that same customer or donor again. And how to reach others.

Measure results. In my next post I will discuss some simple metrics you can use to track your success with different outreach strategies. Stay tuned…