In the for-profit world, scale matters. If 100 widgets cost me $100 to produce, then 1,000 may only cost me a bit more, perhaps $200, to produce. If I sell my widgets at a local famer’s market, I can sell maybe 10 on a Saturday morning. If I utilize the web to sell my widgets, I may sell 100 overnight.
However, in the nonprofit world, place matters.
Place is your campus, your community, your building. Place is where the people you serve live, work, play, get healthy, and get educated. Place is where your mission is realized. And donors care about your place.
Recently, I was with the president of a regional, comprehensive university and we were talking about how she could help her marketing team frame their institution’s distinguishing characteristics and attributes.
“What separates us from other institutions?” she asked during a strategic marketing and public relations brainstorm session.
She and others in the room wanted mostly to talk about new and emerging programs in STEM, their historic and current strengths in teacher education, new athletics teams coming online, and the number of Fulbright Scholars they produce – all news and noteworthy stuff.
“Another way to frame that question,” I offered, “is to ask, ‘why do people care about this institution and your mission?'” Asking this question can lead to some very different but important observations.
What really makes all our institutions distinctive, special and, yes, even unique, is where we are located, where we are serving, and who we are serving.
That’s why people care.