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How The American Dream Impacts Marketing & Fundraising

annual meeting graphic

The DMAW Annual Meeting kicked off with an overview of the 2015 efforts and accomplishments. Thanks to the help of the volunteers, members and the DMAW board, the organization is stronger than ever. We are looking forward to 2016 with more lunch and learns, member appreciation events, and the 2016 Bridge Conference, with an appropriate theme, “Love what you do, Crush how you do it.”

As incoming DMAW President Cheryl Keedy noted, direct marketing is no longer just about being direct. We must engage members and donors in a dynamic way with passion and content that keeps our industry thriving. That’s why we were so thrilled to be joined for the evening by Gallup CEO Jim Clifton.

Since 1935 Gallup has had their finger on the pulse of the American public, developing the latest tools and techniques to better understand the will of the people. By better understanding our audiences and what motivates them, we can better target not only our marketing strategies, but also the staff and intelligence that can take our programs to the next level.

A major takeaway from the evening’s remarks was the realization of how the American Dream has changed shape over the years. When this country was founded, your average American viewed the pursuit of the American Dream through accessibility of freedom and independence. Over generations this shifted, with Americans putting their focus on having the stability to raise and support a family. With the rise of the millennial, we have seen another shift.

Today’s incoming workforce defines their happiness by the satisfaction they get from their career. Finding an employer who does work that they can feel passionate about, that they can actively contribute to … this is the new American Dream. The latest generation is looking for more than a paycheck. They want their career to have meaning. Gallup’s polling has shown that companies now see an estimated 30% of their staff fitting into the “complete engagement” category. These are the people we all want by our side, to pour their passion into the mission, to be good stewards of our resources, and to help spread our message and inspire others about the work that we do.

However, Gallup has also found that at least 20% of the American workforce is “actively disengaged.” An actively disengaged employee at best lacks the motivation to do their best work, and at worst breeds negativity within the workplace. As direct marketers working for causes that strive to make our country and our world better, we have the potential to re-engage this critical subset of the workforce by giving them a sense of pride and purpose in what they do. By tapping into that drive and passion that they are eager to share, we can more effectively run our organizations, and more effectively support our causes.

Jim also had some insight about how the current economic and political realities are shaping the mindset of the public. Times of economic uncertainty and political turmoil breed a distrust for our system. The latest Gallup polls have shown a staggering 75% disapproval rating of our government. Economic growth is slower than people would like to see, with fewer jobs available, and more people leaving the workforce. These realities may discourage us as marketers, like we are fighting an uphill battle. With such uncertainty how can we expect donors and members to continue to support our causes when they have competing priorities? Fortunately, research has shown that discretionary spending has stayed static, and even with the political circus that dominates the media taking up a lot of the public’s attention, giving across markets remains steady.

This gives us opportunities. Jim’s sense was that changes within our nation are less driven by a particular administration, and more so by our resilient American spirit. Americans are among the most philanthropic in the world, donating not just money, but being very generous with our time as well. We’ve long known that the biggest driver for giving stems from organizational mission. Donors and members give to organizations that make them feel good, like they are making a difference in the world. It remains important for organizations to stay true to brand, on message, and to make sure that donors see the link between the work we do, and how that supports the values they hold close. By inspiring our donors and our employees to stand with us in support of our missions, we can help create a sense of community and strengthen America at a time when the ties that bind us often feel brittle.


sarah osinski

Sarah Osinski is a Senior Strategist at CCAH, a full service direct marketing agency that provides expertise on direct mail, telemarketing, and interactive strategies, helping global organizations stay one step ahead in a competitive market. She can be reached at