Sunday, July 12, 2009

compelling supporters to join your fight

The New York Times' Nicholas Kristof has been on a roll lately with his columns about the right — and the wrong — way for charitable organizations to compel supporters to join them in the fight to meet their mission.

Earlier this week he argued, as he had in 2007, that the public is more compelled to get involved if they see themselves as saving one person — one cute kid, one mother who has persevered — versus the millions who may find themselves in the same situation.

"There’s growing evidence that jumping up and down about millions of lives at stake can even be counterproductive. A number of studies have found that we are much more willing to donate to one needy person than to several. In one experiment, researchers solicited donations for a $300,000 fund that in one version would save the life of one child, and in another the lives of eight children. People contributed more when the fund would save only one life."

People want to feel good. They don't want to think about the enormity of a problem that they can never truly solve. They want to write a check and believe they have had an impact.

Quite a few well-meaning people who see themselves as experts in issues marketing did not take too kindly to Kristof's comments. They'll have to get over themselves.

Yesterday, Kristof praised the marketing efforts of Scott Harrison, the founder of charity:water, an organization that has raised $10 million in the past three years from 50,000 individual donors and has provided clean water to one million people in Asia and Africa.

Why does Kristof think Harrison been successful?

  1. He can assure new donors that every sent they send will make it to the field. He can do this due to the support of 500 of his "most committed" supporters, who pay to cover all administrative costs.
  2. Donors can see the impact of their work. They can name wells and get the GPS coordinates to identify their wells on Google Maps.
  3. Finally, charity:water has, creatively, embraced social media.
Assure your donors they're money is being spent effectively, allow them to see how they have made a difference and use social media to help facilitate building relationships with your supporters and tapping into their networks.


MsPicketToYou said...

Woman -- you are smart and inspiring.

I am commenting here to let you know I went deeper, farther, longer into your blog.


NinaP said...

Dear ABF, I just found your blog. so I am starting to catch up. Read this one, and wanted to tell you my story. It agrees totally with what you wrote.
I live in a medium community in the US, moved here 2 years ago. didn't know a soul, was suddenly an empty-nester, a bunch of stuff. Began therapy with an organization that helped me a lot. 2 years later, my therapist asked me to speak at a meeting with higher-ups who might give them some funding. I did, and they did, to the tune of $25K! They had never donated money to the agency before, not ever in their 20+ years existence.
It was because I was there, just me.....not faceless thousands. It took exactly 20 minutes of my time.....
Pathetic. But I am proud I helped.
Keep up the good work!

Jenn said...

So I found your blog through the John Hughes post (amazing), but I love that you blogged about the charity:water also! I love Kristof's column and dedicated a whole post to this article a couple weeks ago as well. Absolutely incredible what Harrison pulled off with his 500 top donors -- I keep telling every person I meet! I'm glad I'm not the only one who noticed the power of the shifting paradigm.


lynchers said...

as an aspiring filmmaker, you've reminded me once again why they are so important.
movies have an amazing power to move and touch people, just like your story.
thank you for sharing, RIP John Hughes.