I've praised the Salvation Army, arguing it was modernizing with the times.

Then more recently, I strongly criticized Salvation Army marketing efforts that I characterized as ” throwing mud at the wall to see what sticks.” I was especially critical of their website, terming it:

“Confusing, difficult to navigate, arcane in language, unemotional, devoid of engagement tools, pedestrian in describing its goals, approach and programs. One of the least compelling websites I've ever seen for a nonprofit focusing on meeting human needs.”

Pretty tough on them.

Today I received an email from Orlando Haddock of the Salvation Army's web team. He noted various changes they've made to the site, urged me to take a look, and concluded, kindly: “Thank you for … the article that helped us move to action.”

I looked. I was WOWed. A complete transformation. Much cleaner, better written, clear navigation, strong images, effective use of video. But you know what really hit me? Their inspiring use of music … which reminded me how rarely I've seen (heard?) this.

Take a look yourself.

Well done Salvation Army … Orlando and anyone else who made this change happen, you deserve a raise!

Which brings me to a larger point.

The other day, Seth Godin, the marketing guru before whom I often genuflect, took an uninformed, gratuitous slap at the largest charities in America, of which the Salvation Army would be one. His comments got featured play in the Chronicle of Philanthropy. He said:

“I despair for most of the top 50 non-profits in the US. These are the big guys, and their stuck. Unlike the Fortune 100, not known for being cutting edge in themselves, the top charities rarely change … if your big, you're used to being big and you expect to stay big. That means that generation after generation of staff has been hired to keep doing what's working. Big risks and crazy schemes are certainly frowned upon.”

In this instance, Seth's over-generalization does a disservice to people like Orlando Haddock and the organizations that allow them to learn and adapt.

Without question, “big and old” can translate into too “slow and cautious.” But this little example from the Salvation Army demonstrates that large institutions can look critically at themselves and change.

Tom

This article was posted in: Communications, Nonprofit management, Online fundraising and marketing.
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