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Judi Christy, the marketing director at the Akron Area YMCA, shares the inspiration behind a new marketing perspective to take into 2021. 

Yesterday, I was actually pumped to get a text. More accurately, I was pumped to get a communique that stood out among all the others, from friends, co-workers, bosses and spammers all vying for my attention and clamoring to be in my inbox. This particular message rose to the top.

Great News! Your 11/06/20 Red Cross donation arrived at a hospital to help patients in need.”

I didn’t give money. That would have been too easy. I donated blood, the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic and the first time since a 25-year respite from doing so because of low iron and downright laziness.

But now, because of that message, I will be a regular contributor to the cause. Donating blood was simple – an online sign-up, a quick temperature check, the answering of a few questions and a comfortable squeeze on a little rubber ball followed by some tasty slurps of a grape juice box.

In less than an hour, I went on about my life and I honestly forgot all about my A+ visit, until the message. But now, because of that little nudge, because of that little affirmation of what I did actually made a difference, I will be a diligent donor.

My next appointment is already scheduled. I’m excited, and I’m also inspired.

What can I do as a marketer of membership promotions and donor campaigns that can replicate the jolt I got from that message from the Red Cross? What can I do to motivate our audience to act instead of ignore? What can be done to jolt the reader of our letters, emails, posts and texts to respond to our request in a way that will be kinder, gentler and of course, as more effective? In short, how do get at the heart of the matter?

This led to the idea of incorporating a new marketing perspective. A review of past marketing efforts seems to always be always be asking someone for something. We constantly need more members, dollars, participation, etc.

As a marketing director, I understand asking. Asking is the lifeblood of non-profits, including the Red Cross. But, instead coming right out and asking me to again donate blood, they just stopped in to say “Hi, Judi. You made a difference.”

It’s the same stir that sizzled many years ago when my husband and I donated to children in Africa and received a picture of a little boy and a hand-printed note that said, “Thank You.” It was so much sweeter than a cancelled check every month, even though the marketer in me strongly suspected other people were also contributing to Gadi’s story and putting his same little picture on their refrigerator door.

But somewhere along the way, the personal touch got impersonal. Hand-written notes, scented stationery and real phone conversations are not in the marketing mix. Sure, we can blame it on social media and the demise of cursive writing, but I wonder if it’s because we’re all just overwhelmed. Isn’t it just easier to keep putting our hand out for an ask rather than pulling it in for a more personal connection?

Dear Ted,

The $100 you donated six months ago to the Annual Campaign enabled Billy J. to take gymnastics class and now he’s teaching his little twin sister how to do somersaults all over this family’s living room.

Dear Eleanor,

The candy cane wreath you donated for the Deck the Halls raffle at the branch sold for $75 and we were able to use the money to purchase a new anti-slip mat for the front door of the building. Thank you for keeping us on our feet.

Dear Judi,

The blood you donated saved someone’s life.

The YMCA is a lifesaver. We’ve provided safe landings for many and fresh starts for even more. We’ve done it with help through community partners, generous donors, dedicated members and committed staff. In 2021, I plan to take things personally with a new marketing perspective – thanking those who’ve thrown us a lifeline and, instead of asking for more, acknowledging that because of them, our net is full along with our heart.

Judi Christy

Judi Christy is the director of marketing and communication at the Akron Area YMCA.

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