People running non-profits are under attack by zombies! Idea zombies, that is.

Listen to it later:

This was the topic of John Haydon's session at the recent Blog World Expo in Los Angeles and the starting point for our conversation in this episode of Marketing Smarts.

An idea zombie is, as you might guess, an idea which has died but lives on, plaguing the living. For example, the idea that, as a non-profit—or any organization for that matter—you can succeed simply by broadcasting a message to the world and asking people to buy a product or give you money (or whatever).

Your customers, your donors expect something different from you. They expect an interaction. This is what social media hath wrought. Facebook and Twitter have taught people to expect a conversation, a back and forth from brands and organizations. They want to feel like their talking to people and being spoken to as people.

If your just pushing out a message—an "ask"—they will tune you out.

The the fact that this ideas is a zombie, however, actually presents non-profits with a unique opportunity to change the way they build relationships with their constituents, and more importantly, an opportunity to rethink this relationship itself.

John suggests that the "concept of generosity" serve as the basis for this transformed relationship. Specifically, he says, non-profits should consider what they can give to their donors and supporters, how they can help them, and, ultimately, how they provide these folks with something they want and seek.

But what do people seek from non-profits? To help others, certainly, but John thinks that there is something else, something more personal that people seek: "They want to feel like their living a valuable life."

Non-profits have a unique advantage when it comes to meeting this need, something, John says, "that for-profits don't have: the ability to create meaning for people in their lives."

"Non-profits have this incredible opportunity," he insists, "to make people feel, 'Yes, I'm actually contributing to the world in a way that's going to change it permanently.'"

One of the most interesting ways that social media helps facilitate this sense of meaning is by allowing people to share their experiences and interact with others (John cites the example of Epic Change and Tweetsgiving). When non-profits provide a platform for people to express themselves and, at the same time, contribute to the solution of real problems in the real world, they create a mutually beneficial bond with their audience—a bond that will result in both donations and an ongoing commitment to the cause.