Take Chik-fil-A’s “Cow” campaign, for example. There’s no mention of Chik-fil-A’s food, how good their chicken is, or how affordable the meals can be. They simply infuse humor into their commercials, billboards, and ads—and it’s become one of the longest running ad campaigns of recent memory, dating back over 20 years.
Of course, humor is a tricky thing. If you take it too far, you run the risk of seeming crass or insincere. Especially within the nonprofit/higher-ed world, it can be hard to figure out where to draw the line.
Some schools, however, have successfully used humor to support their annual fund goals. Here are two examples of campaigns that put the fun into giving.
McDaniel College’s “How the Green Terror Stole Knowledge” Campaign
Playing off of their mascot, the Green Terror, McDaniel created a holiday-themed campaign inspired by How the Grinch Stole Christmas. They crafted a fun short story called How the Green Terror Stole Knowledge (complete with illustrations and a video) that focused on the importance of giving to the annual fund. Not only was it more memorable than a typical holiday solicitation, but it also had great word-of-mouth appeal among McDaniel alumni.
Nyenrode Business Universiteit’s “Take A Seat” Campaign
The joke is apparent right when you land on the campaign page. At the top, you’re presented with a choice between two chairs: an actual chair that you can buy for yourself (valued at 449 euros), versus donating 500 euros to sponsor a chair as part of the campaign.
Most annual giving professionals would never drive people away from their giving site, but clicking on the call-to-action button below the actual chair takes you to a Pinterest board where you can browse fancy, funky chairs for your own home. If you click on the option to sponsor a chair, however, you get to choose which seat in the auditorium you want—plus you get your name and a quote engraved on the seat.
It’s an unorthodox strategy, but the campaign has raised over 50,000 euros so far.
Thinking about incorporating humor into your next annual giving campaign? Here are three pieces of advice:
- Segment your audience appropriately. Certain comments may be funny to one portion of your alumni base, but not to another, so make sure you settle on a target audience.
- Run the campaign by a few alumni while it’s in the developmental stages so you have an idea if you’re on the right track. There’s a fine line between humor and cheesiness.
- Balance it out with more serious campaigns. Fundraising can’t just be about getting laughs. While it’s good to have some fun, you may lose the respect of your alumni if every appeal is rooted in humor.