Most environmental organizations have modest marketing budgets. This, you already know.
You (hopefully) also already know that how you choose to communicate your environmental message directly impacts how successful you are at achieving your mission.
At one point or another, you’ll (hopefully) ask yourself… what is the most effective way to communicate with environmentally minded prospects?
On one hand, you have to treat them like modern donors and potential fundraisers, with their need for social media, online discussions, upfront honesty and short attention spans.
On the other hand, environmentally minded prospects need to be emotionally moved and intellectually stimulated.
You may say that’s the case with all nonprofit donors. After all, it’s emotion that causes someone to donate, and our intellect that rationalizes it.
But environmental prospects have a long history of passionate resonance with those in a position to influence them.
Here steps into play the poet-scientist.
A brief history of environmental communication
It’s been argued that “Environmentalism as we know it today began with environmental communication. The environmental movement was ignited by a spark from a writer’s pen, or more specifically and accurately, Rachel Carson’s typewriter.”
Yet, in fact, it goes back even farther than that.
Poet-scientists have been changing the world with their passionate storytelling for a very long time. John Muir, Thoreau, Wallace Stegner, Charles Darwin, Aldo Leopold, Barbara Kingsolver, Al Gore, and many more have a long history of sparking environmental passion in the masses.
The reason for this?
The poet-scientist has the ability to tell a good story, weaving the passion that can illicit emotional connection throughout their stories. At the same time, their scientific backgrounds are able to bring forward the rationalizing effect needed to satisfy the intellect that change is absolutely necessary.
What we can learn from the poet-scientist effect
Our understanding and acceptance of nature depends in large part on how we communicate with it.
Besides hearing from your organization on environmental issues, and, of course, reading some of the greats mentioned above, prospects are also internalizing what they hear in the conventional media, the conversations they have with their friends and family, what they see on social media, and how they perceive their local government.
The good news is people are more inclined than ever to put some of their money to a good cause. The latest data (2014) indicate that almost two-thirds of American families make charitable donations.
That’s a lot of money that could potentially come your way.
So… what, then, is the best method of environmental communication?
Before I tell you, I want to share with you a recent scientific study on the most effective diet.
You may think this a strange analogy. But hear me out.
Dieters are always on the look out for the latest trend, the best way to lose weight. But the most recent study shows that… drum roll please… the best diet in the whole world is the one that you will actually stick to.
The truth is there’s no magic diet.
No cutting of carbs or only eating grapefruit and peanuts will magically lose the weight.
What will? Persistence, and loyalty to one strategy.
The same will work for you. Choose a strategy that you’ll actually do. Stick to it.
And then blitz them.
How do you make sure your organization rises above the rest?
The companies that that are having the highest donation success are using a slew of communication methods. If you have the budget and/or the staff resources to do this, that’s super.
But for the rest of us, with limited budgets, staff, resources and time?
Choose one or two of your most successful communication methods. Whether that is blogging, social media, direct mail, public service announcements, school fundraisers… and stick to it. Put yourself in front of your prospects in your chosen way as often as you can.
Every year or two, especially when budgets seem to get tighter, or you have a hankering to expand, or a crisis occurs and you realize you have to react… experiment with a different method.
Had success on Facebook but not much on Twitter? Devote a staff member or hire a freelancer. Had great success with direct mail? Then try email fundraising. Had success with live events? Then try a newsletter.
But whatever you do, take a cue from those poet-scientists who we’ve all been emotionally impacted by. Treat each piece of communication you send out to the void as one that’s worth both your passion and your intellect.
And perhaps, if you’re lucky, some person out there reading your words will be inspired.