Back in 2014, a "viral" phenomenon swept social media and left millions of participants soaking wet.
We're talking, of course, about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.
Designed to promote the awareness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as "Lou Gherig's Disease"), this simple challenge involved dumping a bucket of ice on your head and challenging a friend to do the same. You could also choose to "forfeit by way of charitable donation."
The campaign ended up raising a staggering $115 million for the cause, and funding breakthrough surgery that identified the gene responsible for ALS!
That's a breathtaking result-and proof positive that the right kind of marketing message can rapidly take your organization's cause to the next level.
So today, we're going to take a quick look at the major challenges and opportunities facing America's civic organizations, and how to make the most of them.
"A Crowded Marketplace"
According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, there are a whopping 1.04 million tax-exempt charities in the U.S. There are also over 100,000 trade and professional associations nationwide, generating membership fees of over $130 billion (as of 2009).
Meanwhile, industry growth has been leveling off-with a compounded growth rate of about 4% between 2012 and 2016.
The bottom line? Competition is fierce, even for the most benevolent causes.
That's why so many civic organizations are pursuing aggressive marketing strategies, using a variety of offerings and giveaways to promote awareness among key markets and potential donors.
Recent reports indicate that civic organizations are the third-largest market for decorators and marketing vendors-so business is definitely booming.
What does all that mean for your organization?
It means that now, more than ever before, you need to work aggressively to set your organization apart from the competition. You need to be able to keep up (and surpass) their efforts, or develop reasonable expectations of your reach.
This doesn't mean you should pour a fortune into marketing and promotional items, but you shouldn't ignore them either. They can play a serious role in your organization's marketing plan and its future.
Future-Proofing Your Organization
One of the biggest trends for civic organizations all over the world is the adoption of electronic payment systems.
A variety of groups are promoting electronic payment systems throughout the developing world-from Peru and Kenya to the Phillipines-so there's no excuse for any American organizations to neglect this important trend.
Moreover, with billions pouring into sites like Patreon and GoFundMe, today's civic organizations can't afford to neglect any digital opportunities.
So build your Facebook following and start tweeting more frequently. You can use promotional giveaways as a platform for sharing and interaction, but above all it's vital to keep your eyes on the future.
Don't Chase the Next "Ice Bucket Challenge"
ALS' Ice Bucket Challenge was a masterpiece of non-profit marketing, but by no means should we expect (or even try) to recreate that kind of success on a day-to-day basis.
Sure, everyone wants a home run campaign, but each new day brings with it the opportunity for modest gains and customized efforts.
So don't miss out on the opportunity for smaller, more consistent gains on the way to your next blowout campaign. Remember that each new connection matters, and each new day brings its own special challenges (and rewards).
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