We all know the scenario. We walk past a charity collection stall, get stopped by an enthusiastic fundraiser with a clipboard and a well-rehearsed pitch. We get the all-too-familiar feeling of guilt as we make up some lame excuse as to why we choose not to give.
“I already give to charity.”
“I’m a bit skint right now.”
“I don’t have time – I’ll visit your website later.”
Whatever the excuse, and whether or not it’s valid, the truth is that most of us walk away feeling uncomfortable. Our guilt buttons have been pressed, and we have to try to switch to “callous mode”.
The Guilt Trap
When we DO give, of course some of us willingly give because we genuinely connect with the cause, but many of us fall into the Guilt Trap – and give only because we feel emotionally blackmailed into doing so. This results in an uneasy feeling, not dissimilar to how we feel when we’ve just bought a pair of shoes that were way too expensive – but the shop assistant assured us we look great in them.
Charity marketing should be no different to commercial marketing. When faced with charity, we employ exactly the same decision making process as we do when we consider purchasing a product or a service. We trust in facts and figures, but when it comes to signing the dotted line we also tune into what some people call the gut feeling.
We listen to our emotional response.
Our job as marketers is to ensure that this emotional response is aligned with the individual’s values. So how do we do that? Well – first of all, let’s not assume that everyone is our target market.
Fundraising in the street is really a bit like spam email. We bombard every single person with our message, not knowing whether or not they are likely to be interested. A small percentage will respond, whereas the vast majority will turn away – and made to feel guilty for it. If we on the other hand engage with people in a select community, where we know there is already a heartfelt interest in a particular cause, we can create messaging and activities that resonate with that audience. This way we generate higher response rates, which give us improved ROI, and we are more likely to gain advocates who in turn will share the cause with their own networks.
Secondly, we need to also recognise that it’s not all about the money. By guilt-trapping donors, we may get a small, single donation or a sign-up for a monthly direct debit which is soon cancelled. In addition, the person may end up with a negative connotation of the charity. If we instead focus our efforts on winning donors who genuinely love what the organisation stands for, the charity can see long-term benefits which spread like circles on water.
Find the Sweet Spot
As marketers, we really need to wake up and respond to modern human behaviour. As cold as it may sound, charities need more than just pictures of crying children and endangered animals. The new generation has become immune to many of these visuals – because they are constantly bombarded with them and simply cannot respond to them all. But there will be that one or two causes, that speaks to them through the noise; that’s where the sweet spot is.
By implementing this marketing shift, charities will of course also stop wasting time and money on ineffective fundraising. And that’s surely a winner in anyone’s book!