Finding a kingdom to call your own

publication date: Aug 1, 2011
author/source: Fraser Green
This month, I want to share one of a handful of precious nuggets of wisdom I've burned onto my mental C-drive over the years. But I'll start it with a story.Fraser Green photo

The tale of clever Prince Zachary

Once upon a time there was a happy kingdom called Philanthropa. Everyone in the kingdom was happy with their lives - except for (oddly enough!) the King and the five Princes.

You see, the five Princes all wanted to be King. They would plot and scheme. They would compete with each other - and with the King - at every opportunity. Each of the Princes had decided that he couldn't be happy unless he became King. The King decided he couldn't be happy until he knew the Princes had given up on taking his crown.

What a mess!

You see, they were all fine men. They all loved the people of Philanthropa. They all thought they could do best for the people by ruling the Kingdom. Each had become obsessed with the idea that he alone must rule.

The youngest (and some say, brightest) of the Princes was named Zachary. Prince Zachary was known for his ideas - some brilliant, some funny, some outright crazy. But Prince Zachary always had ideas.

One day he was out riding in the countryside. As he gazed out to the mountains on the western horizon, his next idea hit him like a ton of bricks. "Hey!" he wondered. "I wonder if the people on the other side of those mountains need a King?"

So he set out on a quest. He rode far to the west. He found a difficult pass through the mountains. After three days of sun and rain and cold and sleet, he and his horse came down into the valley across the mountain range.

Soon he came across some peasant folk harvesting hay in a field. He stopped his horse and bid them good morning. When they asked him why a stranger had come all the way across the mountains, he replied that he was a Prince in search of a Kingdom.

The peasants burst into huge grins and began to clap each other on the back. "Sir," one of them said, "Our King and all our Princes went away to war five years ago and alas, none has returned. We fear them lost forever. We are indeed in search of a worthy Prince to be our King."

And so Prince Zachary found his kingdom. He proved to be a strong, benevolent King - and he ruled for sixty years until he died. People still talk about the day the wonderful Prince appeared from across the mountains. King Zachary had become legend.

Learning from Prince Zachary

The moral of my little story is this: Quit racing with the pack and find some empty space. If someone else rules your category, find a new category you can rule in. Do something radically different so that you can stand out and be noticed.

Why you need your own kingdom

Your typical donor probably supports ten or more other charities. That donor is bombarded by between 4,000 and 10,000 marketing messages (including yours!) daily. That donor has more than 60,000 thoughts every day. It's awfully hard to get some space in that donor's busy brain.

One of the best ways to get some mind space is to stand out and be different. Not a little different. A lot different. Marketing guru Seth Godin calls this being a "Purple Cow."

This month's tip

Sometime this summer, I want you to find at least one way that you can really stand out from your competition. I'll give you an idea to get you started.

Do you send Christmas cards to your donors? Do your competitors send Christmas cards too? Of course they do - and some of their cards are probably a lot more memorable than yours. So, if you're in the Christmas-card-sending-stewardship business, you have three options:

  1. Just keep sending your ordinary cards and hope that someone notices them.
  2. Try to send a  more memorable card than your competitors (which is exactly what your competitors are doing already), or
  3. Forget the Christmas card program altogether and send your donor recognition card at Thanksgiving! Focus on the theme of gratitude. How grateful your program recipients are for the good works you do. How grateful you are for the generosity of your donors. I'll bet you a hundred dollars that none of your competitors send cards this time of year!

So now you've got the idea. You may decide to nuke the golf tournament and spend serious time looking for that one major gift donor. You might focus on creating an unbelievable experience for a first-time donor. You might decide to spend as much time, effort and money writing thank-you letters as you do writing solicitation letters.

Sometime this summer, you have my permission to spend a workday afternoon at the beach. Just lie there and let your mind drift. If you give your brain a little bit of creative breathing room, I'm sure you'll find where your kingdom lies.

Have fun - and don't forget to put on your sunscreen!

Where to learn more

There are three great books that cover the subject of standing out from the crowd. I strongly recommend Positioning and The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout and of course Purple Cow by Seth Godin.

If you come up with a great idea - and do it - get in touch with me and tell me about it. If I agree that it's brilliant, I'll send you these three books as a princely reward for your valiant labours. I can't wait to hear from you!

Fraser Green is principal and chief strategist at Good Works, a consulting firm that works with Canadian charities to engage donors at a truly human level and build donor loyalty and commitment. Fraser welcomes your ideas, comments and criticisms about this tip. Please email with your reactions and thoughts.

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