A naïve bystander may believe that it is the job of a charity fundraiser to ask people for money. It’s easy to think that a fundraiser’s role is simply to present all of the reasons that someone should donate “it will make you feel good…you’ll be helping people with cancer…you will be supporting your friend who is running a marathon”.
Today I want to tell you that it is only the inexperienced or less successful fundraisers who waste their time asking people to donate. You see if you ask someone if they want to donate you are giving them a choice – to donate or not to donate – the choice is theirs.
The successful fundraiser has moved on from presenting their prospective donors with a choice and is instead sharing the consequences of donating…or the consequences if they do not donate. We need to give them every reason to say yes as well as every reason not to say no.
Why we buy shampoo and gum
I often find it helpful to study the techniques brands use to advertise their products. Commercial organizations never politely ask us if we will choose their brand of shampoo. Instead we are shown pictures of beautiful celebrities with glossy hair who are already using that particular product. We are encouraged to believe that if we buy the same product then we too will look and feel as great as Jennifer Aniston or Nicole Scherzinger. Commercial brands also tell us what will happen if we don’t buy their products – “chew this gum after every meal or your breath will smell and your teeth will decay.”
“Should have gone to Specsavers”
In the UK there is a series of advertisements for an opticians called “Specsavers”. The adverts involve people making comical mistakes as a result of them not wearing their spectacles – an astronaut landing a spaceship in the wrong place; a man walking naked into a steamy kitchen thinking he’s in a sauna and an old couple sitting down on a roller-coaster rather than a park bench to eat their cheese sandwiches. The adverts always end with the slogan, “Should have gone to Specsavers”. They are memorable because they are humorous but, at the same time, they tap into the familiar psyche of people with poor eyesight not wanting to wear their glasses. Sure, the consequences in the adverts are over exaggerated but they emphasize the point that bad things can happen if you don’t wear the correct prescription. They are not shouting about how great they are but simply demonstrating that you need their services.
How this can raise millions
Using this technique, I have solicited millions from companies by showing them that an alignment with a nonprofit would lead to an increase in profits, customer loyalty and brand awareness. The consequences of the company not forming the partnership would be that they remain stagnant whilst a competitor benefits from all the positive consequences a partnership with my charity could offer them.
Similarly, I have worked on peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns through which participants are told about the fun they will have with friends, the kudos they’ll receive for their achievements or the fact that all the “cool kids” are taking part in the event so they don’t want to be left out.
Make it personal
This technique works exceptionally well as a fundraising tool when the consequence has a personal impact on the prospective donor or their company. It’s sadly often not enough to tell your donors that without their donations a child may develop malaria, die from cancer or lose their sight. We are exposed to sad stories like that everyday and have each built up a certain level of immunity that enables us to watch the news and hear about global disasters without crying every time. What we cannot override is the human extinct to seek pleasure and personal preservation. This is why successful fundraisers are able to highlight positive and/or negative consequences that are personalized to the desires and fears of their donors.
Stop asking people to donate
As fundraisers, we need to stop simply asking people to give and start telling them why they should give. Sharing stories of other people that have already given and what the consequences were for them is a great way of doing this. You could share case studies of corporate partners who’ve formed stronger relationships with their customers, major donors who have accessed exclusive networks or before and after photos of marathon runners. You could also add in layers of exclusivity so that there are limited opportunities for your supporters to attend your major donor events, become a corporate partner or be part of your selective marathon team.
The next time you are putting together your fundraising plans, why not focus on the consequences to your donors of them making a gift rather than the consequences to your organization once they have given? I’d love to hear your results.
This guest post was written by Mandy Johnson. Mandy can be found on Twitter – @mandyjo216.