THE BLOG

What Good Would You Do With $4.5 Million?

02/03/2015 07:50 am ET | Updated Apr 05, 2015

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Last week I published a post on Super Bowl advertising, and I was immediately contacted by a reporter working on a story about to the upcoming PSA spot for No More. For those of you who don't know, No More defines itself as a movement in support of many organizations with the purpose to raise awareness of domestic violence. With the NFL's fumble of the Ray Rice case this season, they decided to donate a coveted Super Bowl spot (along with the production costs) to No More in an effort to show their support. This is a great gesture by the NFL for a great cause.

The question the reporter asked me was, "How will No More and the supporting organizations know how successful the ad actually was for helping their cause?" And that question really got me thinking -- donations, awareness, exposure -- I would imagine that all of the pre- and post-buzz around the spot would be an amazing boost to their effort. But, it does beg the question -- what if No More had a choice between accepting the donated Super Bowl spot or a direct cash donation of the value of the airtime (approximately $4.5 million) to deliver to its supporting organizations? Would they have taken the spot or the cash?

Is it more valuable to lift awareness through a TV spot on the world's biggest stage or is it more valuable to take a massive influx of cash and implement actionable steps towards a cause?

While we know the level of buzz Super Bowl spots receive, many nonprofit organizations will tell you at the end of the day, cash is king. Awareness without action is an age-old problem for those on the frontlines helping people in dire need of support.

So, to open up this conversation, I presented this question to the leadership of a diverse group of non-profits: which would you choose between the amazing opportunity of a coveted :30 Super Bowl television spot or a check for $4.5 million dollars?

Here are just a handful of the answers I received. I invite you to include your answers in the comments below.

Jack and Jill Late Stage Cancer Foundation
Treating families to WOW! Experiences, giving children who will lose their Mom or Dad to cancer a timeout to create indispensable memories as a family... while they can.

"If given the opportunity to showcase the importance of smiles, laughter and family fun during the Super Bowl or receiving a $4.5 million contribution, I would, without hesitation, gratefully and graciously accept the gift of direct financial support. When you run a national 501c3 non-profit you have a fiduciary responsibility to be a prudent (conservative) steward for our donors... our supporters... our benefactors. I call them our investors.

Many may say the JAJF would be able to parlay the Super spot into much more than $4.5 million dollars. But, in the words of Steve Miller, JAJF would take the money and run as this would cover 10-15 years of providing extraordinary experiences to the families that need it most. We'd invest wisely and continue to touch lives... one family at a time... prudently, measurably and meaningfully."

- Jon Albert, Founder

YMCA of Greater New York
A powerful association of men, women and children joined together by a shared commitment to nurturing the potential of kids, promoting healthy living and fostering a sense of social responsibility.

"I believe the best gifts are those that are most meaningful to the donor. Being 'donor-centric,' understanding what the donor wants to support and how they would like to support their charities is key. As a Chief Development Officer, I prefer the gifts that make the donor feel best and allow them to maximize their giving and future giving."
- Gary Laermer, SVP & Chief Development Officer

Children of Fallen Patriots
By providing college scholarships and long-term educational counseling to children of fallen patriots, we honor the lives of those who have sacrificed themselves for our country, ensuring the success of those they loved.

"While the reach of the Super Bowl ad is definitely attractive, I would likely opt for the $4.5 million gift, invest some of that in targeted/trackable program awareness efforts, and earmark the rest for our scholarship program."
- John Coogan, Executive Director

Rhode Island Center for Justice
An organization with a mission is to provide increased representation for low-income people in the courts, to potentiate the advocacy work being done by community groups, and to develop a strong network of public interest attorneys in Rhode Island.

"If I was responsible for a national constituency, rather than a focus on supporting a specific geographic region, the idea of taking a global advertising opportunity like a Super Bowl commercial would be very enticing specifically if it coincided with a critical juncture in an awareness raising campaign. It could spark a larger conversation that could have many benefits beyond just the projected donations. But, $4.5 million for our organization supporting our local region would likely be the better choice for us."
- Robert McCreanor, Executive Director

Earlier this year, I founded a 501c3 called The Situation Project in an effort to provide high performing, arts-deficient schools in underserved, NYC communities exposure to arts and cultural experiences. I'm still new to the world of running a nonprofit, so if given the choice today, I'd take the cash and be forever grateful for the services that check would provide. However, the idea of triggering a global conversation around the value that arts and culture enrichment experiences offer to the almost 50 million public school students in the United States -- experiences that are currently the first to go when budgets are cut -- is arguably more valuable in the long run than the needs of my local constituency. I can imagine our TV spot now..."What will our world look like tomorrow without the arts as tenet of our education system today?"

Keep the conversation rolling -- what would your non-profit do and why?