…we tell the for-profit sector, “Spend, spend, spend on advertising until the last dollar no longer produces a penny of value.” But we don’t like to see our donations spent on advertising in charity. Our attitude is, “Well, look, if you can get the advertising donated, you know, at four o’clock in the morning, I’m okay with that. But I don’t want my donations spent on advertising. I want it go to the needy.” As if the money invested in advertising could not bring in dramatically greater sums of money to serve the needy.
In the 1990s, my company created the long distance AIDSRide bicycle journeys and the 60-mile-long breast cancer three-day walks, and over the course of nine years, we had 182,000 ordinary heroes participate, and they raised a total of 581 million dollars. They raised more money more quickly for these causes than any events in history, all based on the idea that people are weary of being asked to do the least they can possibly do. People are yearning to measure the full distance of their potential on behalf of the causes that they care about deeply. But they have to be asked. We got that many people to participate by buying full-page ads in The New York Times, in The Boston Globe, in primetime radio and TV advertising. Do you know how many people we would have gotten if we put up flyers in the laundromat?
Charitable giving has remained stuck, in the U.S., at two percent of GDP ever since we started measuring it in the 1970s. That’s an important fact, because it tells us that in 40 years, the nonprofit sector has not been able to wrestle any market share away from the for-profit sector. And if you think about it, how could one sector possibly take market share away from another sector if it isn’t really allowed to market? And if we tell the consumer brands, “You may advertise all the benefits of your product,” but we tell charities, “You cannot advertise all the good that you do,” where do we think the consumer dollars are going to flow?
Dan Pallotta, “The Way We Think About Charity is Dead Wrong”, TED (Long Beach, CA: 1 March 2013) [Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bfAzi6D5FpM]