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From Music to Non-Profits: Flipping the Funnel

Posted by Mark Shreve on Aug 8, 2012 5:44:00 PM

Not too long after college, I took on the side project of co-founding a media production company and recording studio. Which was A LOT of fun. I gotta admit, this project turned out to be an extremely rewarding and important experience in my life. My successes - and failures - in the music industry taught me a lot about how social media is changing the way we do business. For the most part, the people and organizations that have the resources (talent and capital) are the examples everyone else looks up to. But it’s clear that the big players are experiencing the game-change too. For example, a lot of music artists and labels try to establish relationships with radio station DJs to gain airplay and increase record sales. But think about it..when was the last time you consistently listened to the radio? Don’t get me wrong - those relationships are still valuable. But it’s a fact that fewer and fewer people are relying on the radio as their primary source for new music. How much do you think we’ll listen to the radio 10 or 20 years from now?

Now for unsigned - and even some signed artists - they must not only create great music but also promote themselves and their music as a brand. Which is very hard to do. Major labels have million dollar budgets to spend on marketing and album promotion. An up & coming artist has few if any dollars to spend on promotion. So what’s an artist to do? Flip the funnel.
The lessons I learned from the music industry apply directly to the nonprofit space. Both scenarios deal with people and organizations fighting to spread their message - with little to no resources in comparison to the major players. When we compare nonprofits to musicians, and their supporters to fans, you’ll see that building and engaging your donor base can be done the same way as building a fan base. (Illustrated by our buddy Seth Godin…one of those ways includes flipping the funnel.)

Flipping the funnel is the idea of giving your fans a megaphone and letting them broadcast your message to their own friends and supporters. Artists jumped on this bandwagon early with the advent of mixtapes and street teams. And before social sharing there was simple file sharing. So while record labels cringe at the idea of having music given away for free - Artistic instinct supports that many free listeners is far more valuable than a few paid listeners.

Some of the most successful artists of the last 10 years got their start by giving the majority of their music away for free. This is a perfect example of “flipping the funnel”. Rather than trying to control what your fans or supporters do, you give them the power to control, share, and respond to your message. Yeah sure - this does go against what traditional corporations and business schools teach us about corporate communications. But it seems like going against the status quo is highly rewarded today. File sharing, the broader internet, and social media are examples of how the times are changing. This message applies directly to nonprofits. If you put your message directly in the hands of those who care about it, you have just enabled them to spread your cause.

This is the true power of social media. Allowing your supporters to do just that, support you. Rather than spend millions on a Super Bowl ad, why not generate some awesome and free content that people will WANT to share with their friends? With the power of social media, those shares can reach thousands – if not millions – with simply the click of a button. Do you know of any examples of how organizations are flipping the funnel? Share your thoughts and fill us in….we’d love to hear from you.


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