Tuesday, November 15, 2011

People Don't Give to Need. People Give to Opportunity.

I have something posted on my bulletin board next to my computer that I look at every day.

People don’t give to need. People give to opportunity.

I don’t remember where I first heard or read that statement but it is an incredibly important fundraising premise.  We probably have all been faced with the mandate to raise X dollars in order to build this or that or fund some worthy program. How tempting it is to just get the word out, “We need your contribution. We need your renewal. We need an extra gift!” 

It’s a bit like banging a gong. It results in reactionary giving. The donor sends a check or clicks a button and then forgets about you. They give to quiet the noise.

Now, imagine a donor making a gift because they see the opportunity. They give to make a difference, to accomplish something. They become engaged.

How do you communicate the distinction? Let us consider two different lead sentences for an appeal letter.

The need approach, “As a past contributor to our student aid fund we ask that you consider another gift to The University of Crying Need. We provide over twenty million dollars worth of aid to needy students each year. If we are to continue this type of critical support we need your contribution today.”

The recipient of an appeal like this may react to this approach in many ways. Certainly, the enormity of the need stands out – twenty million dollars a year in financial aid. But, they may also be thinking, “What will my measly (twenty-five, one hundred, or even one thousand dollars) do to help?” The focus is shallow. It is numerical rather than emotional.

Now consider the opportunity approach. “Martha Smith grew up in a tough part of town. Her mother worked two jobs and took in laundry to send her to Opportunity College. Last year as a freshman Martha got straight A’s and discovered she loved science. Her physics professor sent her most recent research paper to the National Academy of Science for which she won commendation. Without generous student aid donors like you Martha might still be doing laundry with her mother rather than excelling in her class. There are twenty-five hundred more Martha’s who want to thank you for making another gift today.”

I would give to make sure Martha has an opportunity to finish school, wouldn’t you? Take the time to determine what the impact of a gift will be. Communicate the opportunity that the donor has to make a difference. 

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