Trust is the most valued asset of any nonprofit or charitable organization.
Nonprofits can execute media relations campaigns that produce waves of placements. They can produce fundraising videos that bring tears. Their events can draw thousands of members or participants.
But a nonprofit organization’s marketing and communications are worthless without trust.
A quick search and review of blogs and news sites on Warren’s fundraising efforts revealed nothing more than tired, old back-and-forth comments. There was the typical criticism of organized religion. There was the same old stereotyping of donors to religious organizations as mindless sheep. The mandatory accusations of fraud, stealing or extravagant lifesytle of church leaders were present.
Despite all of this, Warren’s simple appeal was overwhelmingly successful. His message was simple:
- He told the truth simply and clearly: “On the last weekend of 2009, our total offerings were less than half of what we normally receive – leaving us $900,000 in the red for the year, unless you help make up the difference today and tomorrow.”
- He shared how donations were used: Feeding the hungry, helping the poor and people in pain, changing lives, helping people find God and grow spiritually.
- He asked for a gift and offered three ways to make the donation–online, through the U.S. Mail or dropped off at the church.
Warren’s Purpose Driven Life has sold millions. He delivered the invocation at President Barack Obama’s inauguration last year. He was named the top newsmaker for 2009 by the Religion Newswriters Association. He angered religious conservatives by not actively campaigning for California’s Proposition 8, which overturned gay marriage.
Reports say most of the donations were less than $100 and they’re still coming through the mail. If the average gift was $100, it would take 24,000 people to donate $2.4 million in three days. That’s a formidable army of people who believe in a mission and are motivated to act.
Marketing and communication played a role in Warren’s success. Nonprofit communicators would be wise to observe and learn.
Disclosure: I’ve read the Purpose Driven Life. I believe in God. Rick Warren didn’t compensate me for this post, but God gives me everything.