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Scott McKay is a Toronto strategist, writer, creative director, patient manager, half-baked photographer and forcibly retired playwright.

This little site is designed to introduce him and his thoughts to the world. (Whether the world appreciates the intro is another matter.) If you'd like to chat, then you can guess what the boxes below are for.



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    "They had their cynical code worked out. The public are swine; advertising is the rattling of a stick inside a swill-bucket."

          – George Orwell






    "Advertising – a judicious mix of flattery and threats."

          – Northrop Frye






    "Chess is as an elaborate a waste of time as has ever been devised outside an advertising agency."

          – Raymond Chandler


    Entries in fundraising (2)


    the result of this chicken-and-egg dilemma?

    I know I've posted about this before, but the fractured reality of all things marketing was really brought to life in a recent chat I had with a senior leader at a not-for-profit organization.

    This group is relatively established and successful; they've had growth, and some success in getting funding for interesting and effective programs. That said, their funding continued to be unpredictable, and they'd also had some layoffs. 

    Being a curious marketing weasel, I was interested in her marketing plans. Turns out they had a social media manager working internally, which was encouraging, and an agency doing a pro-bono awareness TV spot once a year.

    What about individual fundraising? I asked. Awareness and engagement are great, but at some point you have to translate those things into real cash money. 

    We can't afford an individual donor program, she said.

    Her group accepted individual donations, of course, and whipped up a newsletter which encouraged giving, but there was no systematic outreach to people who'd raised their hands. (Which I already knew, being one of those occasional donors.) Other than that, they relied on large corporate and government grants, a few individual major donors, and asks at their events. 

    The reality is that building an individual fundraising program using email and direct mail is just too expensive for many organizations, since they'd have to build the infrastructure to do it, and it would take too long to pay off. Her hope was that they could continue to grow in their typical two-steps-forward, one-back way until one day such a program would be possible.

    And, while I want to write that this is slightly unbelievable, when I think about it, most companies in Canada these days (whatever their relationship to profit) are having a problem building relationships that pay off. It is a big cost, and there so many media channels to cover off, let alone understand; the relatively small economies of scale in this country can't support that kind of investment for long enough before seeing real ROI. It's understandable that many managers look at that chicken-and-egg scenario and decide it's not worth it.

    For me, however, the problem with neglecting CRM (which is of course what we've been talking about) is that those emails and DMs help keep people feeling involved, and keep dollars coming in. Awareness and engagement are pointless if something like CRM isn't keeping those one-on-one relationships (forgive the pun) solid and fresh.


    "the fall with probably kill you!"

    Spent the day at the Digital Leap Conference, a joint venture of Ted Hart and Stephen Thomas Ltd., along with the Royal Conservatory of Music. Basically, how the hell do you fundraise in a world where everything you know about your donor is wrong, or out of date, or just changing hourly?

    No one had a lot of answers, but a few people seemed to have a pretty good map for taking the next steps into the dark.

    Scott Stratten from Unmarketing didn't say anything really revolutionary about social capital and social marketing – but hammered home the essential point that you have to actually talk with people to have a relationship with them, in a very funny and impassioned way. His constant mockery of clients who just want to "get on the Facebook" because their current marketing is failing, without having a clue what they're actually going to do, was particularly cutting.

    Mark Banbury, CIO of Plan Canada, gave a very straightforward and strong overview about what Plan is doing – starting with integrating all their systems so they can get real-time reporting of everything: donors, sponsored children, revenues, the works. It's a huge accomplishment and a vital first step to a lot of good work.

    Finally, Alan Clayton (of The Good Agency and others) in his oddly frenetic Scottish accent and mannerisms (or is that Scottish mannerisms and accent?) talked about marketing in 2020, ending on the point that radical transparency – the total availability of all your organization's data, research, info and numbers to the public – is already here and is only going to get even bigger. This means that consumers will be making decisions based not on your marketing or PR, but on what your leadership team actually knows. They will evaluate whether you are worthy of their donation based purely on whether you deliver the services and impacts that you say you deliver. Any problems, any hiccups, and they're gone and they're pulling a lot of friends with them.

    Ultimately technology and marketing are only going to get more closely intertwined in the years ahead. (Gee! What an insight, McKay!) To paraphrase Clayton in his finale, we're all going to have to know everything about everything, be incredibly curious about everything else, and be impassioned about it all.