Nonprofit Communication: You can't change minds, so stop trying

I just watched a 9-minute video of Anderson Cooper debunking Donald Trump Jr.’s assertion that Cooper staged a shot of himself standing in waist-deep Hurricane Florence floodwaters to make President Trump look bad. Cooper showed that the photo in question was from a video clip of Hurricane Ike in Texas circa 2008. Cooper admitted in the video that he usually doesn’t address his critics but this time he felt called to do so, especially because the cameraman shown in the video died a year ago.

When I shared this story on Facebook, my friend King commented: This was well done and necessary and will have precisely zero effect on defusing the conspiracy theory among those who believe it.

And King is right. The goal of the piece wasn’t to defuse the story among those who believed it. The goal was for Cooper to make sure his own journalistic integrity was in-tact to his audiences, current and potential. 

Here’s the secret. You can’t change people’s minds. The job of the video rebuttal, of political advertising and of nonprofit marketing is not to change people but to find like-minded people and attract them to you. Most of us are deeply ingrained in our political and personal beliefs.  We have our own personal wheelhouse of philanthropy, and we rarely stray. This is such good news for nonprofits with little time and stretched budgets.

You no longer need to worry about convincing people of your nonprofit’s worth. Instead, follow the principles of Courageous Communication: find like-minded people and be available to them so they are attracted to your organization. Stop running after people who don’t feel a connection to you. Stand strong in your message and make your organization easy to find. When people are interested in your cause and go looking, there you are! And because they have self-identified as "interested," you already know they think your mission is worthy and valuable.

A common complaint I hear is, "No one has ever heard of us." Well, who are those people? Does it matter if they haven't? Are they likely prospects? Convincing absolutely everyone that your organization is worthy and valuable only to have most of them not become supporters is a waste of your valuable time, energy and money.

When you are strong in message, you attract like-minded people to you. Worry less about what others’ think. Cooper said what he needed to say not to change minds but to reassure his audiences. Your goal is not to convince people to care, but to find those who care and be of value to them.