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Talking Points for Local Organizations
Tom Ahern

July, 2011

You've heard of NIMBY-ism: the "not in my backyard" syndrome.


Developers of affordable housing face NIMBY-ism all the time. The NIMBY mindset argues (usually at high volume), "Don't you dare build low-income housing in our town. It drags down property values and attracts the wrong sort of people."


Well, there is an equally compelling, also highly emotional, yet exactly opposite, syndrome.


Let's call it, for convenience, "IMBY-ism." The "In My Back Yard" syndrome.


Here's the principle: donors are quite willing to invest in making their own little world a great (or at least better) place to live.


The interior argument goes something like this... 


In my perfect world, the world where I want to live, I wish there were no pain, no deprivation, no hunger, no fear. I want beauty everywhere I rest my eyes. I want excellent health care and schooling for all. I want happy, helpful neighbors. When I go to sleep at night, I want to lay my head down in a just and fortunate place.


And I will contribute my hard-earned money to local nonprofits who can credibly promise to make one or more of my IMBY-ist wishes a reality. 


So, neighbor, what's your offer?


I've been working with the Boy Scouts; first on the West Coast in San Diego, then on the East Coast in Annapolis.


We were going through a messaging drill: talking about emotional triggers, talking about matching up with your donors' values, talking about the dictatorial subconscious, talking about neuroscience, talking about sales psychology.


And I realized something: The person I would most like to live next to is a Boy Scout. Why? Because "A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, brave, clean, and reverent."


Of the 12 men to walk on the moon, 11 were Scouts. 


What is the surprising thing about that statistic? Nothing. Who else would ride a rocket to the moon except the most prepared people on earth, Boy Scouts? 


What can you sell in your own backyard?


Consider the Boy Scout example again. Who would you like to have living next to you?

  • A well-educated person or a poorly educated person? That's school reform in a nutshell.
  • A doctor and a nurse? That's community healthcare in a nutshell.
  • A fascinating conversationalist who is delightful, even if you only talk a few minutes a day? That's public radio in a nutshell.
  • A neighbor whose house is so enchanting it raises your property value as well? That's what community amenities like libraries, choruses, orchestras, galleries, and art classes are for.
  • A kind person with a 6th sense, who leaves a meal on the porch of a family having tough times and tiptoes away? That's a food bank in a nutshell. 

What kind of next-door neighbor is your organization?


Sell that. I'm buying.


Check out Tom Ahern at


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