Totally Irrational

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The one thing you need to know: 

Don’t mention all the people/puppies/trees that someone’s donation will fall short of helping. Focus on what it will help.

So, what’s the deal?

We’re totally irrational about our charitable giving. We like to think we’re rational. But when it comes down to it, we’re just not. (My fave piece on this is Homer Simpson for Nonprofits.)

This plays out in a bunch of different ways. But one specific way has to do with how you frame your stories. Per the last Language Lab post, you’re writing stories that shine a bright light on one super amazing person (or puppy…I’ll stop with the puppies now) that a donor could help, right? Right.

It’s oh-so-tempting to mention that there are other people who also need help. Big, epic social issues generally involve more than one person. Feels weird not to mention the other people. But do so at your own peril. Because as soon as you mention all the others–zap!–all the magic disappears.

The donor is now focused on the unmet need. They get sad and unhappy. They feel like their donation couldn’t possibly make a difference so what’s the point? Instead of making a donation, they drag themselves to the nearest Starbucks and drown their charitable sorrows in a double tall, split shot vanilla latte made with organic, wholesome milk.

For the same price that they just spent on their latte, the donor could’ve made a difference in someone’s life. But they no longer felt like they could.

Hot Tips

  • If you’re going to mention more than one person, adhere to WJ Lecky’s idea of an expanding circle. It starts with the individual and then goes to the family then the community, etc. Unify more people together into one as you go.
  • Harken back to what you learned about unit-asking. If you need to show the larger context, ask your supporter to think about what they would give to help one person first. Then–and only then–expand to more people.
  • Riff on the Starfish & the Boy story. (The little boy sure teaches the sourpuss man a thing or two, doesn’t he?)
  • Or riff on: “To the world, you may be but one person. But to one person, you may be the world.”

P.S. Countdown to Fall Quarter at Claxon University is on: only 76 days left. Unleash your awesome this fall! (These fine folks did. You can, too.)

Do you communicate as effectively as you think?


Do you communicate as effectively as you think?