Recently, my friend asked me to join her fundraising campaign for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I hadn’t had much experience fundraising–most of my philanthropic efforts to date have involved volunteering my own time or donating my own money, not asking others for money. So embarking on this fundraising challenge has been an educational experience–in fundraising techniques, but also, and probably even more so, in human nature.
Basically, I’ve learned that effective fundraising boils down to one powerful psychological tool: guilt. When you ask someone to donate money to a good cause, they feel guilty (this is not necessarily your intention, but, regardless, sounds like a personal problem of theirs and not your concern). People don’t like to feel guilty, so when they do, they’re likely to take action in order to alleviate that guilt.
So here are some tips for maximizing that instinctively guilty response and, consequently, getting the most out of your fundraising efforts. (Because what is fundraising about if not psychological manipulation? Anything in the name of [cancer/orphans/abused animals/cancerous orphaned animals/insert other charity buzzword here]! See, you thought I was a douche for promoting psychological manipulation, but then I brought up cancer and now you feel like a douche–it’s working already!).
1. Personalize all of your fundraising materials
People are so much more likely to say no to or ignore your requests for donations if they aren’t personally addressed and coming personally from you. So make sure to use peoples’ names (i.e. instead of addressing letters and emails with “Dear Friends and Family,” address each person individually, like, “Dear Dana,” where the subtext is, “Here’s looking at you, Dana,” with the written equivalent of intense, unmoving eye contact). And also include your name as much as possible–if sending letters, put your name and personal address as the return address. If sending emails, send from your personal email. If asking for checks, put your name and address on the return envelopes, instead of the name and address of whatever organization you’re working for, so your targets know that you’ll know if they don’t send a check in. Similarly, include pictures or videos of you in your outreach–people love visual aids, and when those include you, someone they know, they’ll be less likely to sweep your requests under the rug (if for no other reason than you’re radiantly beautiful and they won’t be able to look away and BAM, they’ve been Medusa-d).
If ever there was a time to employ blackmail/extortion, it’s now, when something positive will come of it. If there’s anyone on your shit list who owes you one, or who’s done something amoral that they know you know about, add them to your email/letter/guilt trip list. The rewarding feeling you’ll get after they donate is 100x better than any sort of vindication you might feel at enacting revenge that’s more personally destructive to them, even if they’re your ex-boyfriend who cheated on you with your best friend and now they’re happily married which is fine because you’re like totally flourishing as a single lady à la Beyoncé and just feel so empowered by your independence and really really love your dog.
3. Be persistent
People will ignore your initial request for money. They’ll hope it goes away. But little do they know, you’re the last man standing in the giveaway where you have to keep one hand on the car at all times and outlast every other contestant, often for 24+ hours. You’re prepared to persist–you haven’t had any fluids for 5 days leading up to the challenge, and you had a catheter strategically placed the day before it started. You have enough fat on your body to feed itself for DAYS. They’ll underestimate you, and it will just be another opportunity for you to prove them wrong and shine like the bright shimmering STAR your parents always told you you were.
4. Provide a lot of information
In your outreach, whether by letter, email, phone call, etc., provide significant information on the cause/organization, and how the money it’s raised has been or will be concretely applied. Give examples of amazing research studies that have been funded by the charity, and lives that have been saved by said research studies. The more specific you can get, without overloading on info because people are lazy, the harder it is for anyone to turn a blind eye. For whatever reason, people HATE being asked for money, even when it’s for a genuinely wonderful cause (which really doesn’t make sense when you think about it)–so they’ll do whatever they have to to convince themselves that in being asked, they’re being wronged. Make it harder for them to be successful in that–they can’t convince themselves very easily that they’re being wronged if you send them a photo of a 15-yr old boy who’s survived leukemia 3 times thanks in part to the money your charity has raised, unless they’re a complete sociopath.
5. Make it easy to donate
By now, we’ve learned that people are narcissistic, greedy, lazy assholes, and require an inordinate amount of hand-holding. So even though they should be willing to work a little harder for a good cause, just make it as easy as possible for them to give you money. Provide a one-step link they can click, which will generate a receipt for tax purposes (because of course they want to receive a personal gain from their selfless act). Or give them an addressed and stamped return envelope if you mail them a letter asking for a check. Make it a fool proof process–they’re not going to willingly put in the effort even when it’s literally the easiest thing they’ll ever do, so if you make them jump through a bunch of hoops, forget about it–you’ll be able to find them at the nearest Sizzler on their third buffet round in the time it would’ve taken them to donate.
6. Express gratitude
Send all of your donors a thank you email or note within a day of them donating. No matter how big or small their donation–show the same kindness and gratitude that you asked of them. Even if you hate them with a fiery passion–they definitely gained some good karma points by donating, and maybe they’re not actually worth hating if they donated, so maybe you need to look inwards and examine your judge of character.
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