Whether or not you sympathize with the Occupy Wall Street protesters, there is something that all of us in the nonprofit sector can learn from this movement. As The Chronicle of Philanthropy notes, the Occupy movement has been successful because the campaign doesn't have the look of something created in an ad agency, but rather a genuine 'rough around the edges' tone that appeals to an audience looking for something real. Real people expressing themselves in real ways.
I'm not sure that the Occupy folks consulted with any professional advertisers about how to channel their passions. They're not a centralized movement and not exactly the type of people that would 'pitch-in' to hire a corporation to help them craft their anti-corporate messages. Take those cardboard signs with hand-written messages. I'm guessing that came from one of many pre-protest brainstorming sessions. Maybe it was Ted or Jan that grabbed a discarded pizza box and felt inspired to write something on it with a Sharpie. Maybe it was a 'plan b' after Greg's balloon idea fizzeled. I don't know. But it works. And it at least seems genuine. Add the techie elements from a generation that can't remember the world without social networking and texting and you have a movement that people identify with. I've heard a lot of speeches from so-called experts on how nonprofits can get people to identify with their cause and I have yet to hear one expert suggest that a sharpie and a pizza box are necessary tools.
But what I love more than anything about the nonprofit sector is that the number one way to succeed as a charity, as a movement, as a cause is to do something different. Ideas that stick can come from anywhere.