Does Giving Taste as Good as Coffee?

Perceived value is the worth that a product or service has in the mind of the consumer. The consumer’s perceived value of a good or service affects the price that he or she is willing to pay for it.

Perception is reality. This was one of the first lessons I learned as a fundraiser 12 years ago. There is nothing technically superior about the VIP area of a nightclub – it is simply sectioned off as “VIP” and therefore people are willing to pay a premium to experience it.

This plays an important role in all aspects of fundraising, and your efforts to engage and solicit potential donors. The events you host, the volunteer opportunities you offer all need to give people the feeling like it is WORTH their time. Intellectually you understand that $20 to an important charity is worth more than a week’s worth of Starbucks coffee, but people experience the value of a hot cup of coffee in their hands very differently than the likely blasé experience they get with making a donation.

starbucks coffeeThe question we need to ask ourselves, is how can we take giving opportunities and make it as delicious as a hot cup of coffee?

Is Cultivation in Fundraising “Manipulative”?

I give many lectures on fundraising strategy and how to identify a prospect, cultivate a relationship with them, and then solicit them for a cause. Much of my pitch is built around developing real relationships, and being “other focused” to ensure that your mission lines up with their philanthropic desires.

There is a common question I get when I discuss how to connect with a prospect and cultivate a relationship. Usually I am sharing some good ideas how to pay attention to the needs of a prospect, how to zero in on important personal and professional priorities, and then leverage them to demonstrate that you are both paying attention, and focus on those aspects that a prospect is most proud. It sounds something like this…

“Aren’t you being manipulative? Aren’t you feigning interest, and then exploiting those “hot buttons” to cultivate a relationship to ultimately lead to a solicitation?”

The question is a fair one, because it leverages the fundraiser’s ability to their emotional intelligence to break through to a prospect, with the goal of getting money from them. However, I think there is a clear distinction between manipulation for self gain, and manipulation to give a prospect a positive experience, both emotionally and through their checkbook.

jonah halper philantropy

If you are trying to manipulate for personal gain…for example, trying to “score” with a girl in the nightclub scene, it is obvious that you are using manipulation to uncover your target’s weakness. However, fundraising – when done right – is a partnership. If you are looking to attract and engage people who will love and appreciate your mission, you are using your emotional intelligence to help them see and value your offerings…and get them to a point where courtship isn’t necessary anymore.

When fundraising is done wrong – when it’s perceived as a transaction and not a partnership – then your manipulation is self serving and not designed to further your mission with your prospect as a partner. So, is it manipulation when you pay attention to the interests and desires of a prospect and then use that information to engage them in your cause? No. Not if it’s coming from a healthy place in your heart and mind.

Birth, Death and a Lesson in Empathy

This past week our cat had her babies. We never did anything like this before, so it was uncharted territory for me, and our family. But it turned out bittersweet.

One of the kittens could not thrive and passed away at only a day or two old. We decided to hold a brief memorial service with our kids and bury the kitten in our backyard. I was surprised by my daughters strong reaction when she was worried about putting the kitten directly in the ground without a protective box. Thinking about her concerns, I realized there was a visceral reaction to putting a defenseless creature in the outside elements. Would a cardboard box disintegrate along with the tiny kitten? Of course. But the reality of this is somehow masked when it isn’t laying straight on the ground.

Jonah Halper - kittenThis made me think about how we all want to feel safe from the elements and that as we grow older we mature in this thinking and recognize the difference between perceived and real safety and security.

We often raise money to provide a safety net for a less than fortunate audience. If someone’s safety and security is missing or lacking, we should communicate this to our prospective donors and partners so they can tap into that same fear which is a natural part of our own lives. This is true empathy. Using your own fears and concerns to try and experience the challenges of others.

My daughter was worried about putting the kitten in the ground, I can understand and empathize how jarring this could be for her. I therefore made sure to comfort her and explain how the dirt deep underground is soft and covering it like a blanket, and protecting her from the weather and other animals that may try to hurt her.

The kitten is safe, and so is my daughter.