Ep 42: What’s With All The Ribbons? (with Dan Osheyack)

nonprofits are messy

Remember those red ribbons people wore at the 1991 Tony Awards? They symbolized a breakthrough in creating awareness of the AIDS crisis.

Since then, we’ve seen all variety of colored ribbons and rubber bracelets. But given how many are out there, does it still benefit your cause to be associated with ribbons or bracelets? Does it help you raise more money? Does the awareness it can bring lead to real action?

In this podcast, my guest Dan Osheyack and I will explore these issues of awareness, action, and cause marketing.

About Dan Osheyack

My guest today is non-profit foundation expert and marketing guru, Dan Osheyack. Dan has spent most of his life as a professional marketer. He was with Time Warner for 30 years, most recently as the company’s head of philanthropy and VP of the Time Warner Foundation. After retiring from Time Warner, Dan went on to become the CMO of the Clinton Global Initiative. I’ve worked with him several times and know very well how much great information he has to offer my listeners.

In this episode:

  • Do ribbons actually help bring in more money?
  • What happens when the color “teal” ends up representing 6 different causes at the same time?
  • How the pink ribbon and the yellow wristband got it right
  • Why creating community is central to your cause
  • Do ribbons encourage “slacktivism”?
  • How to get people involved in your cause, rather than just checking an “awareness box”
  • How to convert cause marketing into action, awareness or fundraising success

Episode Links:

Joan Garry
Follow me

Joan Garry

Widely known as the "Dear Abby" of nonprofit leadership, Joan works with board and staff as a strategic advisor, crisis manager, change agent and strategic planner. Joan also teaches at the University of Pennsylvania with a focus on nonprofit communications and leadership.
Joan Garry
Follow me
  • Tricia Baker

    When you’re working for rare diseases, the ribbons/bracelets can be used by volunteers as talking points to educate their friends and colleagues. (That’s the hope, but I have no data to verify/deny.)
    That said, there is a ribbon and a bracelet for everything now—so would you dare not to have a bracelet, at least for your events?

    • Here’s a note from my guest Dan. I reached out to him when I saw this comment:

      Sure, a colored ribbon provides a possible stepping off point for conversation. But the hope that it can do more is difficult to achieve given the proliferation of “disease/issue identifying ribbons and bracelets in our world today. ( be sure to check out https://www.fundraisingforacause.com/ribbon-meanings-by-month.html if you a doubt just how crowded that arena is). Your staff or volunteers need to be schooled in getting from the visual of the ribbon to the talking points you mentioned — and how and when to use those points. Too often, I’ve seen ribbons handed out with table cards at galas and other events and then not a word said about them. It’s critical that you tell an audience at an event why they are there. Guests appreciate hearing from the organization about the need and the impact of their presence/donation. Don’t assume they know why they are there. And don’t worry, you’re not talking down to them. In other words, I think you could dare not to have a ribbon/bracelet present at your event. Too often, the ribbon is left to do all the talking and it’s not the spokesperson it used to be.

      Hope this is helpful

  • JJ Watt seems to be doing all the right things. See his tweet below. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a592514450c723aa86f161c70728ddea1ec4d1bfe3e32a0dca60035d08804b0b.png

  • Becky Brown

    JJ Watt, singular. He has his own foundation, and he’s at $35 million.