Tuesday, January 29, 2008

I gave at the office

I had two very different donation experiences last week that made me think a little

Experience 1: Giving blood at the NZ Blood Service

Experience 2: Being approached in the street to donate to Barnados.

Both of these are causes that I support, however the contrast of my reaction to each of them couldn't be more marked.

When you think about it, giving blood is a pretty abnormal experience. Stuff that directly contributes to how you live is taken out of your body. You are not paid a cent for it. You are asked a bunch of personal questions concerning your sexual activity amongst other things. You're expected to eat and drink properly to replenish your blood supply which you are called up to give in a few weeks time. You really have no idea what happens to your blood or who it goes to.It is literally a donation.

On the other hand, giving money to Barnados is a low impact donation - a few dollars a week that goes directly into a local organisation which looks after local kids that you are informed about through glossy leaflets. There are also subsidised childcare opportunities should you need them. In my position as a parent I could easily directly benefit from this.

My reaction however was totally inverse to what you would 'rationally' expect.

Giving blood is a pleasurable experience - your feet are up, you can read the paper, the nurses at NZBS are genuinely welcoming and treat you like a hero in a genuine and appreciative way. They generate trust and totally value your donation - you know that it's not being mis-used. Ontop of that, donating blood is seen by most organisations as a valuable community use of time - to the point of being supported through time off and transport costs

Being approached on the street by what I can only describe as commission salesperson with a pressure sell has meant that I am now seriously considered whether the donations I give to Barnados are money well spent. I had to basically be rude to this person just to disengage from the sales process (which was un-necessary since I already donate).

The emotional response to these experiences is extremely re-inforcing for giving blood but trust eroding for Barnardos. I feel like its a pressure sell. Building a marketing model that generates the level of trust that you experience giving blood is a killer application if you are looking for marketing grunt.

I know that it's hard being a not for profit organisation - its hard enough being a profit driven organisation. I think the use of commercial tactics (I can only assume these people are from a door to door sales organisation or the like) is not going to cut it. I am instantly mis-trustful now of how much of my money goes to kids that need it. I don't have that issue with my blood.

So I think it's time to turn this model around. How do you effectively 'market' a charitable organisation? Using traditional marketing methods (mail-outs, glossy leaflets and pressure selling on the main street of the CBD) doesn't work.

How about a conversational approach - Barnardos is probably chock full of volunteers who get paid minimal amounts for looking after needy kids. Their stories need to come out in way that is genuine and builds trust. Currently they have a semi-annual newletter - not good enough. Barnardos has some cool programmes - kids helping kids. You wouldn't know about it. Why isn't their site full of stories about how they are working behind the scenes making a difference. Donators need to know that their contributions are directly linked to these positive outcomes. Some trust needs to be generated and a connection made between the donators and the kids who get the benefit. Right now, with the approach they are taking to raising funds I want to see an annual report with disclosure so I know someone isn't creaming my donation to make money employing enthusiastic teenagers on a low commission to make themselves a tidy little profit. There is no trust. A little bit of effort by their marketing department would make a huge difference.

As an aside, does anyone know how these fundraisers are paid ?

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