The infamous Mary O'Kennedy challenged me to write a blog post on Spanx and fundraising.
First of all I had to learn about Spanx - and I'll never get that time of my life back, so thank you Mary. Thankfully the history of the company is reasonably interesting. I also learned that on-line Spanx is the 'Street Fundraising' of the underwear world: people have some pretty strong opinions.
But here we go...4 Things Fundraisers Can Learn From Spanx.
You Are Not Your Target Audience
When the founder of Spanx, Sara Blakely, tried to get the idea off the ground, most of the [male] mill owners said they wouldn't get involved because the idea didn't make sense and would never work. It was only when one of the mill owners ran the idea by his two daughters (who loved it) that he change his mind.
That's important to remember in your fundraising - it doesn't matter what you like. What's important is what your donors and potential donors like.
Be Realistic With Your Expectations
Spanx don't make you look a size or two smaller - they'll smooth you out and can help your appearance, but they're not a miracle fix.
Like fundraising, there is no miracle fix. It takes hard work. It takes time. It takes good, solid fundraising over time to build your income. Stop looking for a quick fix because there isn't one.
Pretty Does Not Mean Good
They might not be pretty, but if it achieves what you're trying to achieve then who cares?
Some of the best forms of fundraising are ugly. Be clear on what your goal is: are you trying to raise money for amazing causes or are you trying to look pretty? Do you want little knickers riding up your butt all day or do you want your direct mail campaign to break-even in the first year?
Don't Be Afraid To Cut Out The Parts That Don't Work For You
The concept of Spanx was simply pantyhose/tights that didn't roll up when you cut the bottom off. Sara Blakely cut out (am I clutching at straws here?) the part of the product that didn't work for her.
Too often in fundraising we keep something going because we're attached to it - golf classics, annual events, membership programmes, microsites, etc. But if they're not working anymore, if they're not the best use of time and resources, then we have to have the courage to cut them out.
If you want to read more about Sara Blakely there's a good bit of detail on Spanx's website. Sara Blakely was the first female billionaire to join the Giving Pledge. She's an amazing person. She works hard to break down the barrier of women not having the same opportunities as men, which is still blatantly evident, even in Ireland. I would like to buy her a hot chocolate.