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​Fundraising Lessons Learned from… Taylor Swift?

Popular singer and songwriter Taylor Swift has proven herself to be a force to be reckoned with time and time again. She has shattered both country and pop charts with multiple number one songs. She has been nominated for close to 500 awards and has won more than 220. Swift even holds five Guinness Book of World Records for her musical accomplishments including “fastest selling digital album by a female” and “first female to write or co-write every track on a million-selling debut album.”

And in recent news, Taylor Swift took on the second largest technology company when Apple planned to withhold royalties to record companies during the three-month trial period for its new paid-for streaming service. One letter from Swift and Apple swiftly reversed their decision.

It’s become very apparent that Taylor Swift knows how to be effective even at the tender age of 25. But what lessons can the nonprofit world learn from Taylor Swift? The answer is a lot. The same principles that have guided her career can be parlayed into the philanthropic world.

Adapt to changing environments.

In her early career, Taylor Swift was known for songs about young love and heartache. Tweens and teens listened to her message and flocked to download her music and attend her concerts. When some in the public began to think of her as the weak princess of teary breakup songs, she reemerged in her songs as the one holding the strings in a relationship. She was no longer the poor girl who got her heart broken, but the one who was breaking the hearts. Her music changed and she began to be known for her girl power, I’m-in-control-anthems. Her audience extended beyond country and her music successfully crossed over to pop.

Nonprofits can also retell their story to keep pace with changes in the marketplace. Just follow Swift’s lead by being able to read the public’s perception and be willing to embrace reinvention.

Be the leader.

Taylor Swift took a chance when she went to battle against Apple and Spotify because she felt they were devaluing not only her music, but also the music of other, less successful artists. By acting on her beliefs, even though she risked losing fans and alienating industry giants, Swift ultimately gained the respect of musicians, impressed critics with her stand and gained an even bigger fan base.

Nonprofits can benefit by noting that her example proves that sometimes it pays to make the hard decisions and stand behind your values. Just as they did with Swift, people will respect a company that follows its mission, rather than taking a middle-of-the-road stand.

Reach your audience.

Taylor Swift is known for reaching out to her fan base. Whether it’s randomly showing up at a fan’s home or inviting them into her own, Swift knows her audiences and how to connect with them. From op-ed pieces in the Wall Street Journal to posting pictures of her cat on Instagram, she also shows a flair for directing the right content to the right audience.

Just like Swift, nonprofits need to make a personal connection with their audiences. Use the medium that each group relates to and personalize the message so that the recipient feels that you understand them.

Be you.

Most people feel like they know Taylor Swift through her music. She writes about herself and her experiences and her emotions. She has opened herself up and shared herself with her audience. The press has reported countless times on how Ms. Swift is just one of the girls — she wraps Christmas presents for her fans, she invites them to a local chain restaurant, she throw sleepover parties. She’s human.

Nonprofits can follow suit by building a true, personal connection with donors. Let them know who you are and why you value their support. Its much easier for a person to say yes to your requests when you have put the time in to connect with them on some level.

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