Is your nonprofit the Buick of the 1980s or the Buick of today?

19 Feb


What if you were 24, an automotive designer fresh from design school and you were offered a job at Buick?

As late as the early 2000s, had this happened, you would have learned that while Buicks are all the rage in China, the average Buick buyer is 60+ years old and has been since GM dominated back in the 1950s.

In the 1980s the formula worked; selling rolling couches to those who like to get from point A to point B without fanfare. In this setting you likely would say no to the job and move on to a sportier brand.

Were you offered the job today however, you very well might take it since Buick has moved to a sportier image for it’s brand in order to appeal to a younger audience and to save itself from extinction.

130-ish words into this week’s post and you might be wondering where I’m going with this and how it pertains to nonprofits.

Is your nonprofit the Buick of the 1980s or the Buick of today?

Phrased directly-are the majority of your donors in their 60s or are you paying attention to the donors of the future?

How long can you make a living going after the same group of donors?

Buick saw the writing on the wall and made a shift. They had to. As the population started entering the target age for buying a Buick it turns out they didn’t have any interest in buying a Buick.

My grandparents had 2 Buicks and by the time I could afford a car Buick wasn’t  a consideration at all.

I believe this is the case as well with nonprofits. Some will struggle mightily to be relevant to younger donors and some might perish. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Some nonprofits have not changed their brand message/image in decades. Some focus very hard on 60+ year olds, year in and year out to be the donors that carry them.

Perhaps worst of all is many nonprofits think that they can make you give to them using only the methods they choose for you. This would be like Buick advertising that their cars get from point A to point B like any other car so although I know you want a sporty ride Mr. Youngbuyer, you should just buy a Buick from me.

I know it sounds like a lot of work for your nonprofit to try to cater to younger donors but you’re going to have to cater to them at some point. As they age they will bring their mobile phone habits with them and as it pertains to giving they will likely not at all have the same habits as their parents and grandparents.

This is what Buick focused on. They asked themselves “Where are the next Buick owners coming from?” and they changed their image, their product line and as a result, their average buyer.

So what do I recommend for your nonprofit to follow the Buick example? 3 things.

1. Make the donor of the future a regular topic in all your board meetings. Develop a simple profile and list their habits and attributes.

2. Stop dilly-dallying on mobile. You may think that you can go mobile anytime you like and be an expert and you’d be wrong. It took me 4 years t learn mobile TV when I was at Sprint and I was laser focused on it all the time. Go mobile today.

3. Task a member of members of your board along with 1 or more staffers with laying out your plan for mobile and then empower them to execute on it so you can begin to learn about how mobile fits in with your nonprofit and what tactics show the most promise. This way, you go mobile, you experiment to see what works and then refine and repeat what works.

Do you remember Oldsmobile? Packard? DeSoto? At one time they thrived in the automotive world and then their average buyer dried up as new demographic groups came along with different tastes and habits.

Nonprofits, take my advice. Be the Buick of today.

2 Responses to “Is your nonprofit the Buick of the 1980s or the Buick of today?”

  1. Johna592 August 30, 2014 at 11:52 AM #

    I have not checked in here for a while since I thought it was getting boring, but the last few posts are good quality so I guess I’ll add you back to my daily bloglist. You deserve it my friend facgffaekcke

  2. October 17, 2014 at 8:24 AM #

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