Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Philanthropy advertising

I took a quick look around to see what I could see in terms of developments in end-of-year philanthropy advertising.
"The quotes/italics are my interpretations of the ads"
[The brackets indicate where I saw the ad]

"But wait, I wanted a toaster...."
  • Wells Fargo's new "Wrap it Up" campaign notes that the bank will make a donation to local schools, the Red Cross or Save the Bay for each new customer account opened between now and December 31. A new version of embedded giving. [SF Magazine, Dec 07]
"Let your partners speak on your behalf..."
  • Ads for the San Francisco Foundation feature local attorneys, speaking about how they trust the Foundation to do right by their clients. (everyone wins) [SF Magazine, Dec 07]
"Play to their egos. And hint at John D Rockefeller"
  • Fidelity asks, "You know how to make money. But do you know how to give it away?" [The New Yorker, Nov 26, 2007]
"Just manage the money"
  • I noticed an odd trend in [The Atlantic, December 2007]. There were lots of financial advisers advertising (2 ads totaling 3 full pages, including inside cover, from US Trust/Bank of America, 1 page for Fisher Investments, 2 page spread for Morgan Stanley, and 1 page for the (worth reading) Public Affairs book, Encore by Marc Freedman). Maybe Atlantic readers are all newly and unexpectedly wealthy for whom philanthropy is a secondary consideration? Philanthropy is a part of the services offered by all these advertisers, but it is definitely not the focus of these ads.
"Only if you are going to give to us..."
  • Two alumni magazines have lots of ads for wealth management, but again the only clear mention of philanthropy is a full page (inside back cover) ad to "invest with Stanford's endowment." I would imagine charitable gift funds, wealth advisers, philanthropy advisers, etc would like to reach the Ivy+ audience - is it possible that these magazines don't take these ads? [Yale Alumni Magazine, Nov/Dec 2007; Stanford, November/December 2007] On another subject altogether, these magazines are chock full of ads for assisted living facilities - the selling point of which seem to be the high number of alums and faculty who live there - summer camp for smarties as we grow older and frail(er)...
"We're all about making money. Oh I suppose you might want to give some of it away."
  • In [Fortune, Nov 26 2007] I saw no mention of giving or philanthropy in any of the advertising. [The Economist, November 24 2007] had one Wells Fargo ad for private banking services that included a sentence on "...a scholarship for your Alma Mater." [Business Week December 3, 2007] came up empty. Portfolio has an ad for NetJets featuring Tiger Woods (a play to young wealth) and lots of financial firms pitching their tax advantaged offerings; WIRED has several "green" gadgets and cars, but no direct philanthropic pitches, and Fast Company just sent me an invitation to their 2008 Social Capitalist Awards in January - but I don't know what ads they're running this month.
"Give for good. Don't just give stuff."
  • Page A13, National Edition, [New York Times], November 27 is a full page ad for....giving to charity rather than giving stuff. According to the ad:
"Let's redefine Christmas. By putting more Thanksgiving in it. ...

Give people donations to their favorite charities. And request that they give donations to your favorite charities....

The sole purpose of this message is to facilitate charitable giving. Please pass it on."
The only note about who paid for the ad is a small print sidebar noting that "The Dalio Family Foundation does not solicit donations from the public." The Dalio Family Foundation is a $25 mm+ independent foundation, based in CT and founded by the head of Bridgewater Associates, one of the nation's largest hedge ($20 bb+ in assets under management). Interesting to note that the founder of The Clear Fund and Givewell.net - one of the cooler experiments* underway in philanthropy right now - is a former member of the company's staff.

This "Giving" ad is notable for several reasons, 1) it is pitching philanthropy for the sake of philanthropy, 2) It is not underwritten by a financial firm, a philanthropy advisory service or a fundraising nonprofit, 3) It is "issue agnostic" - give where you want to, says the ad (OK, OK I know there are those who are getting ready to blast me that the mention of Christmas disqualifies the ad as agnostic, but I think its more about the giving season madness than the holiday), 4) It makes me smile to see a foundation get the point that they have a vested interest in the rest of the philanthropic capital market - a subject near and dear to my heart, 5) based on comparable data, the ad probably cost about $65,000 - which would make the expenditure qualify as a pretty significant grant for most foundations, 6) The New York Times has a lot of readers. There may be lots of impact from this ad. And, as far as I can tell, there isn't any way for the funder to know what kind of impact the ad had....it is just a message, in a respected medium, at a certain time of year...

Without a doubt, the New York Times "giving" ad is the most interesting to me. My thoughts on the others, for those readers who seem to have lost their sense of irony or their ability to realize when my tongue is firmly in cheek, should be seen as little more than my musings on a market, at this particular time of year. And, I'll keep looking - I've got other hard source to check - Sunday's Times Magazine, the WSJ, Harpers, Inc., Vanity Fair, Forbes, Technology Review, Traveler, etc. etc.

As soon as I turn of the Ad Blocker on my browser I'll search for online philanthropy ads. Facebook supposedly had 100,000 ads launch within hours of allowing advertising to run on the platform. Wait a minute, on second thought, I'm going to keep my ad blocker settings as is, and let you tell me what you notice in online advertising for charitable giving....go ahead, email or comment and let me know.

*I am on the board of The Clear Fund.

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