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lady gaga, prince and nonprofits

July 09, 2010 |

So it’s finally time to do the last in the infamous Lady Gaga series. First we looked at Lady Gaga on branding, then Lady Gaga on fundraising, now let’s take a look at Lady Gaga and community. (Here’s where you can see the previous posts on branding and fundraising). Candidly, I had trouble finding a way to blog about Gaga’s community without getting in you into some areas that you might not have wanted to go. See my previous disclaimers about Gaga and our viewpoint differences. But as often happens, events intervened and I was able to go a different way.


Gaga has recently achieved a pretty impressive social media milestone. Her Facebook page now has over 11 million fans (or “likes” or “followers” or whatever FB corporate is currently calling people who connect). Yep. 11,000,000. More people than the entire population of Belgium. Here’s a recent screen capture of her page.


She’s getting comments in the 1,000′s and “Likes” in the multi-thousands. Interestingly, you’ll notice I have 1 friend who’s a fan of hers (I guess I really am out of her demographic). And then notice how she takes care of her fans. Pizza and water to the crowds lining up for her concert. On her website, if you’re daring, you can find videos of fans who getting teary eyed when they talk about how she’s supported them. These are fans who have attended a public appearance and who saw her in line getting their CD cover signed.


She’s even coined a nickname for her fans: “Little Monsters.” You may not think that is a term of endearment, but her fans clearly do. Oh, and apparently she has a tattoo dedicated to them. Maybe you could suggest something similar to your board members to honor your monthly donors? That would be fun to imagine wouldn’t it?.


Fast Company recently did a nice story contrasting Prince and Gaga. Prince apparently has announced that the Internet is dead. This is another one of those times when Hoots won’t allow me all the editorial asides I would like, but I’m still going to insist that someone notify Al Gore of this tragic news. Fair warning on the videos embedded here.


Fast Company notes the differences between Gaga and Prince. Bottomline: Prince is ignoring the online/social media opportunities and Gaga is embracing them. Prince is fading. Gaga is a screaming hot rocket of marketing magic.


Here’s what I want you to consider as you think about what you can learn from Gaga the Strategist on community for your organization:

She loves her fans. I wasn’t serious about that tattoo thing and your board, but how do you show your most faithful donors you love them? Do they get sincere thank yous? Do you care for them beyond their gift amounts? Same questions about Major Donors…is your relationship tied to their giving or because you really love them as people? Tie it to giving and it’s sales transaction. Care about the person and it is a relationship. Relationships beat transactions 100% of the time.


She listens to her fans. Gaga (or her people) are interacting with fans constantly. When she’s signing 1,000′s of CD covers some how she listens in those few seconds and connects. I suspect it is asking questions and listening more than talking. Bet there’s eye contact. She’s connecting with them through the entire range of channels.


She interacts with her fans. Don’t read “fans” and think just Facebook. We’re talking online, inline, YouTube, in person, Facebook…on and on. How about you? Are you interacting with your fans? You have to find ways to have conversations with the people who love you. I have some pretty strong opinions on the best ways to connect with donors today–the key is to remember that this is “today.” Knocking on a donor’s door probably isn’t ideal for everyone. Calling doesn’t work for everyone. Email doesn’t work for everyone. You have to figure out what works for each individual (or group of individuals) and make those channels work. Engagement is the key, not simply transmission of your message. Ask questions. Have a dialog.


She gives her fans an opportunity to talk with each other about her. Gaga platforms her fans. They are “selling” each other and encouraging each other. What would happen if you gave your best fans a platform to speak on your behalf? Don’t settle for a few tepid political endorsers in your direct mail acquisition. Give all of your “little monsters” a platform to tell how you’ve changed their lives because they are donors. Doing that changes the game completely!


Create community and give the people you love a chance to engage with you, connect with you and talk with you. That will give you the opportunity to raise all the money you’ll ever need. Trust me. If not me, listen to Gaga.


How about you? How are you creating community? What makes you nervous about all of this? Love to hear from you! (Oh and Oneicity fans, clients and tribe members, you’re not “little monsters” you’re REVOLUTIONARIES!!!).



Steve Thomas
Partner, Oneicity

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8 Responses to “lady gaga, prince and nonprofits”

  1. Mike Handy says:

    Great post… I think too many non-profits get nervous when you break the mold of how they have done it in the past. I know I am more engaged with non-profits that provide information/community for me to take part in.

  2. Steve Thomas says:

    @Mike–thanks for the affirmation. You’re so right, involve us and we feel like we’re part of the organization.
    Great to have your thinking and involvement!
    st

  3. Brad Shantz says:

    The internet is not dead. It’s just a series of tubes!!! Haven’t we learned anything from the good Senator Stevens from Alaska.

    In John Maxwell’s new book “Everyone Communicates, but Few Connect”, he says that a person must feel that you care about them before you can connect with them. Lady Gaga has that down pat. Look at the verbs you chose to use: Loves, Listens, Interacts….

    “Gaga is a screaming hot rocket of marketing magic” is T-shirt worthy. HA HA HA.

  4. Steve Thomas says:

    @Brad–whew, glad to know that the Internet isn’t dead! And thanks for the Maxwell reference. He’s right. I have a post coming on listening verses talking. Listening tells people (donors) that you care.
    There’s been more T-shirt talk. I hadn’t thought about how fun that line was when I wrote it. If we do T-shirts, you’ll get a free one!
    Glad you shared your thinking.
    st

  5. Charles Knuckles says:

    Brilliant thought provoking and helpful. Thanks Steve you’ve made me think about some very important issues using L.G. of all people.

  6. Steve Thomas says:

    @Charles–Thanks for the encouragement. I’m with you, who’d have thought that Gaga could teach us! But I’m glad to have provoked some thinking in a sharp, wise guy like you. I appreciate your feedback. Keep ‘em coming.
    st

  7. Brilliant analogies and I applaud you for bringing new ideas to the cause world. We all know Prince and we all know Lady Gaga so you’ve also put this into a perspective that fundraising folks can understand from multiple generations. Very refreshing!

  8. Steve Thomas says:

    @Daniel–Thanks for the encouragement. I have to say, I knew Prince but didn’t know Lady Gaga until recently. Glad you stopped by.
    st

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