Tip of the week: Be in the Giving, not the Getting, Business

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Guest post By Katya Andresen

Did you know that we, as human beings, are inherently generous?  Our brains are actually hard wired for altruism.  When we see or hear someone’s pain, our own neurons fire in the same way they would if we were feeling that pain ourselves.  We want to help others, and when we do, we’re rewarded with happy feelings – and a dopamine dose to our brain’s pleasure center.

So why is it so hard to raise money?  People should be giving all the time if it’s human nature.

Here’s the rub: to get people to act on their natural impulses, you have to ask them to help in a compelling way.  And we often fail to do that.  We tend to get so obsessed with our mission’s needs that we forget to consider the donor in the picture.  What about their neurons?  How can we connect to them in a meaningful way?  And how can we deliver the happiness that giving brings?

We need to focus on what we give our supporters, not on what they give us.  We need to give them the chance to do extraordinary good through our organizations.  We need to give them memorable stories about the difference they made.  And we need to give them credit for the good that happens.

That’s the real gift of fundraising – not the donation you extract but rather the reward you provide.  Through your own generous orientation, you inspire generosity from others and build a community of giving.

One of the best marketing minds on the planet, Seth Godin, has noted: “A gift binds the recipient to the giver, and both of them to a community.  A contract isolates the individuals, with money as the connector.  The gift binds them instead.”

When people feel that supporting your cause is a transaction, so much is lost.

Here are three things you can do today to practice this principle.

  1. In your next email, give donors a wonderful story about one person (or animal) whose life was changed because of them.  Just one.  It’s more powerful that two or ten or twenty thousand.
  2. Thank a donor out of the blue – just pick up the phone, call and give them credit for what has happened at your organization.
  3. Experience the happiness that these acts of gratitude gives people  – and the happiness it provides to you.  It will give you nice dose of dopamine and remind you why you came to this work in the first place.

Own the great space of what you give rather than the tiny territory of what you need.  The former is a much more fertile place to be a fundraiser – and to make a life.

Have a generous and happy week.

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