Sunday, May 1, 2011

Passion for a Semi-Fictional Community Center

Originally Posted on January 23, 2008

I know it’s been 30 years since he’s dead, but somehow I evoked a little Harvey Milk last night in class.

Let me explain: Weekly, we are to make presentations based on the concepts we learned and apply them into our “invented” non-profit organization. This week, we discussed three critical elements in non-profit marketing: Market Research, Target Audience identification and Positioning.

Why are these three critical? In order for a non-profit organization to market themselves, you need to identify the people your organization needs to reach, how to determine the best ways to do so and to identify what you want your target audience to think about your organization.

In the case of the regional GLBT community center, the target audience was the easy part. In addition, I described that within the GLBT community, the marketing plan would also need to target specific populations inside of the GLBT community. Most community centers reach out to as many people as possible, including GLBT people of color. However, how many organizations reach out the physically or emotionally challenged GLBT folks? How many of these groups also recognize that diversity includes generations and body types. The latter has been an old champion cause of mine for well over a decade.

The concept of positioning was quite simple as well. If there is not another community center focused on serving the same population within the same region, then what other entities will a GLBT community compete against? For starters, you have the bars. Then, there’s the local groups, clubs, organizations serving various GLBT populations locally. A Bear Club is indeed a competitor to a GLBT community center, unless it has direct ties with it. That is the caveat to insuring that the competition is identified to declare a positioning statement for your marketing plan.

Lastly, every non-profit has tried a different form of market research or another to gain knowledge towards an effective marketing campaign. Our speaker for the class, one of the founders of the Illusion Theater, pointed out how his organization would conduct several forms of external market research on which shows would be produced to which audiences. Some of the methodology works, other have not. The professor also suggested against on-line surveying for market research.

This brings up an interesting fact. Last year, Outfront Minnesota, the statewide GLBT political advocacy group, conducted an on-line survey regarding the possible establishment of a GLBT community center in Minneapolis. From the results I’ve seen, it certainly looks effective. The survey did reach a wide-ranging field of respondents to gain the research they needed to go forward with the future center.

Where does the late Harvey Milk come into play? Passion. In class last night, I felt a passion for my study. It is the same passion I felt years ago when I began my journey into grass roots GLBT community organizing. It is the same passion that is focused on a career path back to the community at the present.

When I presented my application of learning to the class, that passion came out. It was alarming, but liberating at the same time. While my fellow Arts and Cultural Management students mainly picked non-profits based solely on the arts, I tested the cultural side of the program’s equation. It felt right last night.

Harvey always talked about the 16-year-old from Altoona, Pa. who wrote him a letter thanking him for being a pioneer. I was a 14-year-old in Reseda when he was killed by Supervisor Dan White at San Francisco City Hall 30 years ago. From that moment, I took my turn in touching many lives through my work with Gen-X Bears and other projects I was involved with since the early 1990’s. Now, I feel that passion again. Even as this is a marketing class for non-profits, the energy I feel from Harvey’s passion seems appropriate for this class.

How else can you market a GLBT community center without a passion for your people?

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