Why great creative is a gutsy gamble

Many people say they love great creative and would like to see more of it. But in reality, it takes a special kind of person to be willing to take the risk.

You see, creative, by its very definition is a gutsy gamble. Being creative is the “Genesis Leap,” forming something out of nothing — “to bring into being . . . to produce through artistic imagination.

art-for-blogIt’s doing something no one has ever done before, with no track record to fall back on, no guarantees to call up when you need them. And that’s why you have to be willing to be a loser as well as a winner in order to be creative.

For nonprofits, there are three characteristics necessary to maximize the creative energy in your agency or staff:


1.Be AGILE enough to “pounce” on opportunity. If it’s in the press and “top of mind,” there’s no better time to tie your cause to that shooting star. For relief and development organizations, that’s an earthquake, flood or tsunami. For rescue missions, it might be the death of a homeless person. For a right-to-life organization we serve, it was the exposè on the undercover videos at a Planned Parenthood clinic that revealed staff “aiding and abetting underage sex trafficking.” They raised three times more than was projected for their appeal because they were willing to “pounce” on opportunity with a responsive agency (us) who could make it happen.

2. Be BRAVE enough to throw out everything and start over.
Acquiring new donors for nonprofit organizations is becoming a tougher and tougher nut to crack. While direct mail acquisition results continue to decline, paper and ink is still the most effective, proven source of new donors. So, what do you do when your control kit is below breakeven and incremental tests produce only incremental improvement in the downward spiral? Take the existing creative, throw it all out and start over. (You can tell my background is creative and not in client services.) One of our clients produced three new acquisition kits this past year — two of which outperformed the control kit. That’s a “nutcracker” whose steps, rhythm and melody we should be following.

3. Be FLEXIBLE enough to give your donors what they want.
No other niche in the marketing world assumes to give their customers what the business wants to produce rather than what the customers want or need. Donor education is something you do after you’ve captured your donor’s heart. If donors want to provide meals for hungry people, give them the menu and describe the meal well enough to make their mouths water. Don’t try to sell a two-year, comprehensive recovery program that even staff members can’t comprehend. If donors want to provide clean, safe water, don’t muck up the conversation with the need for latrines and how the latest water filter can make toilet water totally drinkable. (I’m gagging, not reaching for my checkbook.) You may even have to “adjust” your mission deliverables a bit to match more closely what caring people are really concerned about. Who knows, that could be providential — God using His people to steer us in the right direction.