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Subway Ads & Fundraising: Why Peanuts Matter.

Grower of Peanuts 051613

By Gil Israeli, Director of Prospect Research and Senior Writer,

American Technion Society

(Photo source: National Peanut Board.)

New York’s Subway Ads can be inventive, funny, effective and, in this case, mirror attributes of the successful fundraiser. Real life peanut farmer Jeffrey Pittman volunteered his salt-of-the-earth appearance and ruddy cheeks to the cause.

Arriving in his freshly dry-cleaned duds, ready for the photo-shoot, he was too clean. So a girl smeared on the dirt, mostly on the jacket.

What’s today’s healthy snack? A four-part verbal fugue:  Grower – Harvester – Nurturer – Bringer Forther

We like Pittman – after all, like the best fundraisers, he’s a grower and this essential qualification can’t get any simpler…

He’s a harvester, which means he’s a pro, he has the tools and experience to deliver this year’s crop. We like his plain-spoken nurturing side that is in touch with the often too serious scientific language about anti-oxidants.

Finally, the bringer forther is a nice piece of down-shifting humor to a self-effacing joke.

What a concise list of attributes for the fundraiser in action. How could you not buy Jeffrey’s peanuts?


Sinatra’s initimable song speaks to the context and challenge: If you can make it in New York, home of more than 98,000 charities, you can make it anywhere. The diversity and pluralism of New York may offer the most egalitarian garden-like (and resource-rich) environment to grow: to sell yourself, a new clothing line, a new Broadway show or a nonprofit’s cause.

And this should remind us that rare constellations of moment, crowd-behavior, market dynamics, energy and public/private resources and media can align and launch our efforts…. our organizations over “The Tipping Point” to a new level of fundraising we hadn’t thought possible.

But these crucibles also come with their dangers…. frequently, trial by fire. After an investment of millions and the work of hundreds of Broadway theater professionals, the musical, Glory Days, previewed and then closed on a quiet and forgetable May day in 2008 after one official performance, a record that will likely stand the test of time.

So, if you too put together SWOTs to drive your organization’s strategic planning, let’s ask: what are the constellations that we should keep our eyes open for – so that we will be ready to take the leap when the moment with star-reaching launch-potential arrives?

And what are the constellations that we can and should steer our way past? We often talk about the vision of our organizations’ missions. Implicitly, we’re also talking about how we stand out from the rest… and this indicates how we vie and gain the attention  which our cause truly deserves.

Vision is a good metaphor.

Luck does not favor the blind.

Bad luck may favor myopic tendencies.


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