In defense of boring

Quibi is dead.

For those who think Quibi is the result of me falling asleep on my keyboard, it was actually a short-form video app (named from Quick Bites) pioneered by Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman.  It launched in April and had problems from the get-go: 92% of users who took a free trial didn’t renew, it was competing with the tens of billions of dollars that giants like Netflix and traditional networks put into content, and it was called “Quibi.”  It was less a candle in the wind and more a lighter in a hurricane.

But it’s also a reminder of the short lifespan of the new and the hot.  Back in 2016, I wrote a column about the hot new things in the nonprofit world: “As I write this, the online nonprofit world is aflutter about “Donate Now” (or “Dislike”) buttons on Facebook, parallax Web design and Meerkat versus Periscope.”*

Remember Meerkat and Periscope?  No?  Me neither.  And yet we often go for the the new shiny.  There have been actual debates over how Google Plus authorship would help your search ratings.  Nonprofits once highlighted how to use Pokemon Go at their charity 5Ks.  Actual articles were written about the impact of MySpace on philanthropy.

Through all this, the mail has been delivered.  Phones have rung.  Email has been opened and clicked upon.  People have searched and gone to web sites and attended galas (until recently).

This is not to say not to investigate new channels in case they become the new email or Facebook.  We ourselves have done a webinar on digital alternatives to Google and Facebook like Twitter, TikTok, and Twitch.

But these efforts when engaged with should be like skunk works — kept small, hungry, innovative, and easy to shut down if/when the channel goes the way of Google Wave.  The channel is ephemeral; the relationship with the donor should be eternal.

Many of the effective things aren’t the things you tell your family about when they ask how your day was.  Increasing your donation form’s conversion rate by 6%.  Switching to a digital press so you can print your member card and letter personalization in the same run.  Cleaning your online database so you are sending half the emails with the same number of opens.

But each of these saves lives and changes lives by adding to your mission.  And your service recipient doesn’t care whether the channel that changed their life was founded by Ben Franklin or Jeffrey Katzenberg.

* This piece also contains one of my favorite lines ever, so I must engage in a bit of hubris and quote myself here:

“We should regard nonprofits that go to extremes to court a Millennial audience at the expense of their core donors like we regard the person who dyes his or her hair and goes to hit on people at a college bar: unfaithful to those who supported them, uncomfortable with who they are, and ill-equipped to succeed even if success were desirable.”

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