An Open Letter to My Conservative Readers

Butting HeadsIn the last 24 hours, two of my favorite nonprofit marketing bloggers who I admire as colleagues and love as friends had the same experience: a reader admonished them for using examples from pro-choice organizations in their blogs and e-newsletters. The readers threatened to unsubscribe in both cases to protest what they saw as abortion advocacy.

I get similar complaints from time to time, more often during webinars, where some participants seem to believe that because they have paid for training, it should be devoid of politics or controversy.

So, I want to take this opportunity to be clear about my approach to these issues. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

I am a progressive, pro-choice Democrat. When I started consulting and later blogging, I made a conscious decision not to hide my political leanings. I believed then and still do that there are more than enough nonprofits in this world for me to serve, and if someone refuses to read my work or hire me because of my politics, so be it. If they feel that I have nothing to contribute to their professional development because of my personal beliefs and politics, then odds are we wouldn’t enjoying working together anyway, because I see most of the world in shades of gray, rather than black and white. I’ve reached the point in my career where I only work with people I enjoy as people, progressives and conservatives alike. I turn down those I suspect will be PITA clients, regardless of how well our politics may or may not align.

I do not fear losing business, or losing readers, because of who I am. I profess that being genuine is the first rule of good online marketing, for myself included. I can think of more than a few elements of my personality that come through professionally that some of you may find objectionable. For example, I call my weekly link roundup on Friday afternoons “Mixed Links” and post it with a picture of a cocktail. Yeah, I participate in Happy Hour regularly. Though I try very hard, I sometimes let a curse word fly during a webinar. Yeah, I cuss too (but nothing like this marketing blogger).

I do try to avoid outright advocacy for causes because I do not believe that’s what you are here for. However, I do believe that we all learn a great deal about nonprofit marketing from real-world examples. Because I travel in progressive circles, I am much more likely to identify examples from those kinds of organizations and to incorporate them into my writing and training. That may feel like advocacy to some of you. But I make no apologies for sharing examples where I’m illustrating strategies and tactics, and will continue to share examples that I think are helpful, regardless of the political sensitivities involved.

At the same time, I am more than willing to share examples from more conservative points of view, when they are brought to my attention. During some webinars, for example, I ask participants in advance for sample materials to incorporate into the training. During these webinars, I have gladly counseled pro-life pregnancy centers about their website home pages and Catholic pro-life charities about their messaging and calls to action. But, the truth is that I’m more likely to use examples from pro-choice organizations like Lillian’s List, where I serve on the board of directors, simply because I come across them more often.

Some people have suggested that I go out and actively search for more conservative examples to showcase to make it more “equal.” I’ve considered this approach, and honestly, I just don’t have the time. I don’t have the capacity to use all of the examples that are right in front of me on a daily basis, let alone go on fishing expeditions for them. But I do believe very much in the network mindset to our work that Beth Kanter and Allison Fine are helping us all understand better.

So I’m outsourcing this one to you, my network:

Please point out good examples from conservative organizations for me to use in my writing and training.

I only ask that you identify for me what it is you think others can learn from the example . . .  what’s the strategy or tactic employed? What are they doing well, or not well, or what’s so different or interesting about it? Don’t just forward an example to me or throw me on to a bunch of email lists. Help me interpret it for others.

Conservative readers, I want you here. I believe we all have much to learn from each other. I hope you’ll comment. I hope you’ll offer examples. If you have a case study or lesson or story to share, I hope you’ll guest blog for me. Heck, I’m sure it’s a little annoying that most of the top nonprofit marketing bloggers happen to be progressive women (which is a little ironic, since I think the conservatives are generally better at their messaging than the progressives). Start your own blog on conservative nonprofit marketing and I’ll link to it!

Do, however, please save your time and mine by not sending me threats to unsubscribe if I don’t change my evil ways. That won’t change my mind or my approach, and frankly, it will make me think a little less of you (it just seems really petty to threaten someone who is offering you free advice on a blog or in an e-newsletter). So just unsubscribe and we’ll both move on, no worse for wear.

If you find enough value here to stay, which I certainly hope you do, even despite a few examples that irritate you, then I welcome you with open arms and look forward to hearing your perspectives and learning from each other.