This is the time of year I get a lot of mail from very worthy organizations. Some I’ve heard of before, most I haven’t; some I remember from prior years at this same time. All share a story of deep need teetering on the verge of crisis and the opportunity for me to make a difference. All have no problem asking me for money. Unfortunately, this same experience is being played out across the country, likely in your mailbox as well.
I would like to think that if I had unlimited funds, I would be more than happy to send checks to all these organizations. I could feed the hungry, house the homeless, provide educational kits to children in far away places, and even pay for medical supplies to ease those who needlessly suffer. But I have limited funds and I can’t help everyone. So I make a choice which organization I support. And the decision is pretty easy: those organizations that sought to first understand the motivations I have for giving and created and nurtured a relationship with me over time – they get my money, time, and energy. Every year. The others are like those people in the movies at nightclubs who use bad pick-up lines trying to go from hello to breakfast all in one cheesy opening line.
In his book buyology, author Martin Lindstrom suggests that the noise of advertising and promotion has become just like wallpaper to our brains. We see it but the message doesn’t really register. That exact same thing happens with these requests for help – genuine and important as they may be, they fall on deaf ears because there is no prior relationship to base the request on. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Whether you’re a non profit or for-profit, I have a new year’s resolution I want you to make. Start in January to establish and build a relationship with your constituents and community. Make regular and non-request contacts with them throughout the year. Keep in touch, tell success stories, treat them like you’re going on a date and are s-l-o-w-l-y falling in love. Woo your community. Then, at the right time, make a small request. Then, once you’ve demonstrated to that participant what you’ve done with their gift to you, say thanks and be quiet. After a period of time – when you’ve been dialoging and sharing – building a deeper relationship, then you can ask for something bigger. Go ahead, pop the question!
Sending me a letter during the holiday season telling me that you’re in need and want money just isn’t going to cut it anymore. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that it is poor stewardship of the funds you do have. Sure, you’re likely getting a series of donations from that campaign, but I’ll bet your not getting the donations you could if you’d ask people out on a date first.
-- David Kinard, PCM
P.S. If you want to hear more about and from Martin Lindstrom and his book buyology, be sure to listen to Marketing News Radio on February 25, 09. I'll be interviewing him about his book.