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ProSpeak

By Who's Up Next?

About ProSpeak

Essays about the nitty-gritty of fundraising, written by the people who do it every day

 

Pay It Forward

F. Duke Haddad
Understanding Why People Give
Mar 27, 2015

Statistically, more than one-third of all charitable dollars given annually in the United States is directed to religion, and research...



Peeling the Onion

Katrina VanHuss
Vas Madness: What Nonprofits Can Learn From a March Madness Trend
Mar 27, 2015

Urologists noticed a bump in vasectomies at the start of March Madness, and they took action. Vas Madness was born....



It's Your Turn

Larry C Johnson
Celebrating Your Volunteers
Mar 26, 2015

Kudos to those dedicated nonprofit development professionals who celebrate their volunteers. Those who know — and believe — that it's...



Old Dog Fundraising

Pamela Barden
4 Fundraising Questions I Can't Answer
Mar 26, 2015

Here are four fundraising questions I can't answer that have been haunting me lately....



Bedrocks & Beacons

Jeff Jowdy
How Is Your Fundraising Ground Game?
Mar 25, 2015

Never forget the ground game. At the end of the day, our biggest success lies in the personal connection —...



Get What You Give

Joe Boland
NonProfit PRO Leadership Conference: Navigating a Difficult Nonprofit Environment
Mar 24, 2015

At the inaugural NonProfit PRO Leadership Conference May 5 in Washington, D.C., Paul Bellantone, president and CEO of Promotional Products...



Navigating Off the Napkin

Angie Moore
8 Nonprofit Website Analytics to Find All the Gems From Your Web Engagement Data
Mar 24, 2015

There’s an enormous amount of information you can learn from your constituent engagement online. Are you mining those gems and...



Outside Counsel

Willis Turner
Nonprofit Copywriting: What Writers Say About Writer's Block
Mar 23, 2015

Do fundraising writers get writer's block? Does every writer? All writers talk about it. Some play complicated psychological tricks on...



Connections

Jeff Schreifels
Beyond Donor-Centered: Change Your Mission!
Mar 23, 2015

Is there anything about your donors in your nonprofit's mission statement? Probably not. It's a pretty rare occurrence if there...



Ruthlessly Practical Fundraising

Gail Perry
5 Keys to Get in the Door With a Mega-Capacity Donor
Mar 18, 2015

So you've identified your big kahuna potential prospect, your mega-capacity donor. What next? How do you get in the door?...



Digging Deeper

Matt Hugg
Go for the Green: Prepare for Year-End Fundraising Today
Mar 17, 2015

If you're on a June/July fiscal year, you need to make plans now for a strong year's end. That means...



Hump Day Hullabaloo

Jo Sullivan
Hump Day Hullaballoo: Sometimes It's Hell in the Hallway
May 22, 2013

This week, as I transition into my new position as interim executive director at Save the Chimps, we're talking about...



Get Engaged

Margaret Battistelli
What's Cooking in 2015?
Jan 7, 2015

Here's your chance to chime in and help us paint a picture of trends and best practices across all aspects...



Donor Trippin'

Nick Allen
Is There an App for Us?
Jul 1, 2014

Got an idea for an app that could connect a charity or nonprofit with its supporters and beneficiaries in an...



Raising the Possibilities

Thaddeus B. Kubis
Recurring Themes: The Case for Integrated Marketing Communications, Part 2
Dec 27, 2013

Recent discussions focus on a myriad of topics, but in the past two months, the recurring targeted topics seem to...



A Brand That Wears Boots

 
I almost walked out. My first impression was, “This is the worst general session at any DMA conference I’ve ever attended.” And I’ve attended a few.

The guy seemed nice enough, but he was talking about dead cowboys buried on a hill in rural Texas. Guys who shot each other for no good reason. Texas terrain with the longest bluff in the nation and someone I never heard of by the name of Cal Farley. He played football but finally excelled at wrestling.

I was dumbfounded. Where was all this going? And did I possibly care?

It took a while, but Dan Adams, president/CEO of Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch, finally put everything in context. He gave the history of the 70-year-old ranch he presides over near Amarillo. And a biography of the founder — a businessman and entrepreneur with a big heart for kids on the street.

Cal Farley knew how to make things happen. And he also knew how to network with people of influence to expand his reach beyond what one person, no matter how gifted, could possibly accomplish. People like Bob Hope and Roy Rogers — bigger-than-life stars who are “gone but not forgotten,”just like the cowboys in the hillside cemetery. 

The story of the ranch’s history was fascinating. But even more impressive was the presenter, current president of the privately run and funded nonprofit children’s home. He spoke with a Texas twang. What could be more appropriate? And he wore cowboy boots branded with the “BR” (Boys Ranch) ID that every young man receives upon graduation from the ranch’s high school. But most amazingly, his heart was immersed in both the history and the mission of the ranch. Dan carries the same passion that the founder carried to his grave. (Cal died in the backseat pew of the ranch chapel during a service he planned.) I have no doubt Dan will also devote the remainder of his career to the ranch. It’s just who he is.  

Talk about branding! I don’t even like Texas (it’s too hot, dry and flat), but I’m sold on the soul of Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch. And to a creative director whose career started in writing, Dan seems like the perfect client. After all, he started his presentation with the perfect scenario for a fundraising writer: “The president’s job is to tell the story; the writer’s job is to make it readable.” And Dan tells a powerful story.

Sure, fundraising copy techniques are important in communication and effectiveness. We know how to get a response. But the tricks of the trade work so much better when they are encapsulating the heart and voice of a real, unique and memorable person. — the words and phrases, even a little twang, but most importantly, the heart.

Skillfully, Dan did all that with the history of the ranch, but he didn’t leave me in the past. He moved into present reality by recalling how the ranch staff recently responded to the latest tragedy involving children in Texas. When the state evacuated kids from the Mormon cult compound suspected of sexual abuse of minors and polygamy in 2009, the ranch made room for more than  70 of the boys. Dan’s storytelling was captivating as he pictured the hungry, frightened boys at their moment of crisis — and of the ranch opening its arms, beginning with a country meal of fried chicken and biscuits.

Of course, the ranch didn’t have budget to keep 70 additional children. But that’s its mission, so they did it anyway, getting the overwhelming donor response they needed for this extra effort. 

What a story! Any writer would itch for the opportunity to share that kind of passion. The brand hasn’t changed in 70 years. Rescuing needy boys. Giving them a bed, good food, and teaching them to work and play. Building productive men out of boys who otherwise could easily turn out badly. Those roots endure. 

Cal Farley is long gone. He died in 1967. Yet the simple black-and-white photo Dan closed with nailed it for me. It pictured an older woman opening envelopes. Turns out, it was Cal’s daughter Genie. She’s been processing the checks sent in by donors for decades. Talk about tying your history to your present. This rustic photo screamed authenticity, credibility, commitment, tradition and continuing compassion. And what an unspoken promise! Cal’s daughter is going to open the gift envelope I send to the ranch. For me, and I suspect for most donors, that’s seen as an added bonus for supporting the Ranch. 

Deep roots are what make the story of Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch so engaging and memorable. Picture it: a little boy sitting on the back of a pony on the Texas prairie, happy, content and oozing of “just plain good.” What part of that don’t you want to support?

Ultimate success in fundraising comes from a great story told in a compelling way with a simple, clear, quantifiable offer. Make the recipient say, “I can do that!” and “I want to do that!”

Thanks, Dan, for reminding me of the importance of deep roots and a brand that wears boots.

Robert. Zawoysky is executive creative director at Masterworks (masterworks.com). Reach him at RZawoysky@masterworks.com



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