Tue, January 02 2007

Why personal fundraising works

Katya Andresen's avatar

Author, Robin Hood Marketing

Filed under:   Fundraising essentials •

Blogger Beth Kanter helped raise nearly $50,000 in the past three weeks for her favorite cause, the Sharing Foundation, with a Network for Good charity badge.  I could not be happier today, first, because Cambodia is a cause close to my heart (I covered it as a journalist in the late 1990s) and second, because it shows the power of personal fundraising.  According to Beth:

There was lots of help from the Sharing Foundation family - board members, volunteers, and supporters—especially TSF’s founder, Dr. Hendrie, whose relentess attention to campaign made it successful.  In addition, we received lots of support and help from the Cambodian adoptive parent community and their families, churches, synagogues, fellow employees, golf buddies, quilting clubs, book clubs, parents of their children’s school mates, high school and college friends, and beyond.  The Cambodian American community also rallied for us too!

The beauty of people-to-people fundraising is that it is based in two-way communication; it is a conversation between individuals rather than a speech from an organization.  It puts your message in the mouth of the person most likely to prompt a donation:  someone the audience knows.  There are two useful social psychology theories at work here: liking and reciprocation.  In a great book on these theories, Influence: Science and Practice, author and social psychologist Robert Cialdini explains liking this way: “People prefer to say yes to individuals they know and like.”  He says we like people who are similar to us, who praise us, who are in frequent contact with us, who share common connections to us and – shallow as it is - people who are physically attractive. 

Pair this idea of liking with the principle of reciprocation, which states, “people give back to you the kind of treatment they have received from you.”  It’s no mistake, says Cialdini, that a synonym for “thank you” is “much obliged.”  When we like someone and perceive they’ve treated us well, we’re likely to return the favor. 

Cialdini uses lots of examples from sales in his book, but liking and reciprocation are also integral to our own work as fundraisers.  His work shows us that it is a fundamental part of human nature to want to help people close to us and close to our experience. 

The fundraising work of the Sharing Foundation certainly shows what happens when liking and reciprocation are at work, when community members rally others, and when it’s easy and fast to make a difference. 

Think about who could be your best messenger - it’s probably someone outside your office, in a community of their own.  Ask them to spread your message in the new year.  It’s a good resolution to keep.


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