Emotion and belief : the essential ingredients for fundraisers

I do like it when I make the connection between the great thinkers of our time and come up with an insight that joins their thinking.

Stickier MarketingThe first great thinker is Grant Leboff, author of Stickier Marketing, which opens the lid on why marketing has changed and provides the building blocks on what to do about it. If you haven’t read Sticky Marketing yet then you should – especially since its been updated and super-seeded by Stickier Marketing. The second great thinker, who needs no introduction to fundraisers, is Ken Burnett. Both of these great thinkers are great influencers to my own thinking and will no doubt appear on my top 10 most influential for sometime.

So first to Grant.  Having started applying the principles of sticky marketing for the last few years at SolarAid, we had the pleasure to meet Grant for a coffee to talk about our approach to fundraising. His message was simple : focus on the why you do what you do – not what you do or how you do it. “What do you believe in?” he asked.

After reflecting on what he had to say I delved into the depths of his book. Here is what he wrote about brand value and my understanding after unpicking it slowly in my brain. “Brand value is vitally important and always has been – the importance has not changed but the ingredients have”.  In the past brands were based on the image that has been created and enforced. Today a brand is based on your reputation. Reputation is what others say about you. Which in is turn driven more by the experience people have with you not what we say we are (brand police your days are numbered).  Hence it’s about moving from here is what we say we are to showing here is how we act i.e. see and feel for yourself from the experience you have.

“Beliefs and values are now key because the experience people have with you is an emotional investment”, states Grant. I was so taken by this I sat and drew out how it all connects. This is what I came up with (call it work in progress).

Brand Value rt

What we do in itself should gives us the very content that communicates who we are. And it is great content that people will share with their networks. Which in turn builds your reputation!

The win win is if someone aligns with your beliefs then they will naturally promote you to their network – because your beliefs are their beliefs. And that works for partnerships too. Engage a corporate partner that shares your beliefs then chances are their audiences (staff, customers, suppliers etc) will share those beliefs too. They will have greater social capital with their network than you will ever have (so its better they engage their audiences on your behalf). And your beliefs are right at the heart of why you do what you do i.e. the question posed by Grant, what do you believe in ?

So brand value has moved from an image you create to the reputation you have. And that’s based on what you do (who you really are). Which in turn comes from your beliefs (why you do what you do). Of course there is no reason this doesn’t apply to charities. So the diagram above becomes as follows (with thanks to Mary Cahalane): Brand Vaue 2.0 c

Infect your donors

Enter Ken’s latest thought piece as part of the Proud to be a Fundraiser campaign. Ken eloquently put’s the case for the emotional fundraiser. Donors “need to be impressed, inspired and infected”. Infected – what a great word! And what does an infected supporter do? They pass it on by telling others. And what do they use to engage their network?  The very ingredients you use to engage them – emotion and belief along with the added social capital they have with their friends, family and colleagues (so its better coming from them than from you). So chances are they are more likely to do this well if its genuine belief, emotion and passion that inspired them in the first place. As Ken highlights in his post, donor acquisition costs are “teetering on the brink of entirely unacceptable”. My take is because we are using the wrong ingredients driven by direct ROI. To understand the underlying reasons why you should read Grant’s Stickier Marketing.

So what is the connection I have made between Grant and Ken? Its simple. Your donors are the channel to new donors (sticky marketing). Donors really are gold dust as it’s not what they give it’s who they share with. And this is not just the route to more mainstream donors. This is the route to new major donors, corporate funders, trust grants – because in this connected world you just don’t know who they know (believe me I speak from experience). It’s why donor care is such an essential ingredient and ROI is so over used. It’s also why the fundraiser who engages and inspires those donors, vs just get money out of them, is now critical.

This is why the time of the emotional fundraiser has come.


8 thoughts on “Emotion and belief : the essential ingredients for fundraisers

  1. Amen, Richard! One thought/question, though… on your visual (which I really like), square the “what we do” with Grant’s comments before that about focusing on the “why”, not the “what”. I think I know, but I’d love to hear your take.



    • Great idea Mary! That’s the great thing about sharing your thinking – people like you help make it even better! I almost added an arrow showing that what we do is driven by why we do what we do i.e. from our beliefs. Maybe this could come from the bottom : so we have Reputation as the output at the top and Belief -> Why -> What at the bottom?


      • Yes, I think so! Because when we get to just doing the “what” and forget the “why”, that’s when we’re in trouble…

        Thanks, Richard. This one’s a keeper!


  2. Hi Richard,
    This has been really useful – one thought could/should you replace ‘supporter experience’ with ‘stakeholder experience’. Working for a smallish homeless charity ‘beneficiary experience’ really drives reputation as people in need/distress ask their peers for where they should go for help and in a way beneficiaries become our advocates and the circle gets bigger and stronger – the same with working with partners.

    Just thinking of how to sell the model ‘up’ the organisation and move ‘Brand’ away from purely being seen as a fundraising tool/responsibility.

    Off to order Grant’s book.



    • Ian what a great thought! It’s a shame brand has been so aligned with marketing/image.

      It reminded me when we had a great moment when someone in Kenya posted on our Facebook page to say how much his mum loved the solar light she had bought. Then you bring beneficiaries/customers alongside supporters/donors. Powerful stuff.


  3. Pingback: Confessions of a fundraiser | ifundraiser

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.