Sunday, October 31, 2010

Compassion sells.

Why do people give? That’s one of the fundamental issues behind fundraising marketing, and it’s one that Non-profits usually mess up on.

Zero compassion
Statistics Canada asked donors this question in their 2007 omnibus survey on fundraising and volunteering, called Caring Canadians, Involved Canadians. The answer was not surprising. The biggest reason was compassion towards people in need (at nearly 90%). Other reasons included wanting to help a cause in which they personally believed (86%), wanting to make a contribution to the community (80%), and having been personally affected or knowing someone personally affected by the cause the organization support (62%). Donating because government would give them a credit on their income tax rated only 23%. The results are pretty much consistent with the survey done in 2004. Compassion sells. Plain and simple.

But it’s obviously not that simple, because too many charities ignore this. I’ve seen a lot of fundraising marketing materials, and too much of it focuses on things rather than people. A hospital I know recently turned their ads from focussing on people (patients) to buildings and pieces of equipment. That’s a classic mistake. Donors can’t feel compassion about things. They need people to inspire them to give. To make them feel angry, to shame them, to fill them with hope. The common element is people. And it must be real people, not swimwear models. Compassion doesn’t extent to actors.

100% compassion
The best thing about compassion is that it is an easy story to tell. Anything can be about people, and people can be related to anything. Take those buildings that hospital used. Would it have been so hard to find a real patient or a real doctor to tell the story of how that building helped a real person? Imagine that instead of a cold building there was a kid who beat cancer saying thanks. Which do you think would be more effective? Yes, telling those stories takes extra effort, but it is well worth it.

So, go find a story about your charity and tell it. Because nothing sells like compassion and that always involves stories about real people.

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