One of those things I get a lot is fundraising for charity in the form of emails and appeals for help.
Penang is definitely a city for lots of generous and warm-hearted people but if people get bombarded with too many “help me, help my organization” pleas, they get tired.
But we know we all want to help, if only the charity email isn’t so long and unwieldy that it takes forever to understand what the organization wants or needs. It does not help that the language is so mashed up either.
Plus the email gets in between the 300 or so emails which land in our inboxes on any given day.
Which means, either your email has to be very compelling, very interesting or very boring and dismissed.
And there goes the ONLY chance for your organization or charity home to let people help you!
How To Ask For Money…Nicely
Here’s my story.
I sit on the committee of my local residential area as a volunteer. I was roped into this by a friend and I thought I’d give it a try since I believe there’s nothing like walking my talk of being community-friendly.
Now their main problem is always about FUNDING. The committee is made up of some very senior people, most of them are retired. Each time an activity or event is proposed, their main concern is “how are we going to get the money from the people here? No one wants to sponsor!”
The issue is far deeper than that. Many on the committee are embarrassed to ask their friends or family to sponsor! Asking for money (even for a good cause) is terribly embarrassing and they’d rather not do it, if they could. It’s like *gasp* “begging”.
Coming from years in marketing our own business, I decided to put myself to the test. I volunteered to set up, organize and coordinate a community treasure hunt AND get all the 12 sponsored prizes on my own. I wanted to see if it really is true that companies won’t want to sponsor or if their method of asking is all wrong.
My only resources were my list of contacts in my network. The people I know and the people who knew me.
How I Pulled It Off…On My Own
I am writing this not to impress you but rather to show you that Marketing, if done correctly, can get you what you want and it’s win-win for both parties and totally ethical. (Believe me. I am a big believer in doing things honestly. I’m a Buddhist – karma will bite me back if I do something totally dishonest.)
It can work in both business and non-business circles. It can work to your benefit if you know how to position yourself and the value you offer.
Did I just mention VALUE?
Before you go out to ask for money for your favourite charity/cause, ask yourself: What VALUE can my friends and family get out of this if they hand over their money?
Helping a cause is good and fine but isn’t there something else?
Let Me Give You My Example
I had to get 12 prizes for the 12 teams who were taking part.
Jay, the very able treasure hunt question setter, told me that top 3 prizes plus maybe 3 other consolation prizes would be enough. I thought I really must up the ante as this was the first time ever we’re having this kind of hunt in our area and I wanted all 12 participating teams to go home with prizes. All teams which registered were already winners before the hunt started. I wanted them to get all excited before the hunt even commenced.
As each team had to consist of at least 4 people so whatever prizes I had to source, I had to double them so every team member got a prize or could enjoy the prize.
If I went up to people and said, “Would you like to sponsor a community treasure hunt?”
The answer would most likely be “No”. And really, why should they? Each day tonnes of people ask for money, prizes, help etc.
The reason is, people/businesses will not see how sponsoring the treasure hunt will do them any good. In most cases, they will cringe – they need to give their products away for free? Are you crazy?
In my case, I started to think from the perspective of the sponsor. What would a sponsor want to see or hear in order to feel that sponsoring would be such a good, unputdownable deal? What VALUE (yes, again that word) could a sponsor get in return for giving away their prizes?
Value is what makes transactions. We all want to get something. It’s not all bad. It’s just how we’re wired to think. What are we getting out of this?
What could I, as the treasure hunt organizer, give them that they’d want to come in as sponsors?
In less than 7 days with a combination of emails and phone calls, I managed to get RM4850 worth of goodies for all 12 teams. This included a 3D2N hotel stay in Langkawi for 4 persons, exclusive photography sessions for 2 families, free tickets to Tropical Spice Garden, skincare hampers, personally autographed hardcover books, bread baskets and more.
One Committee member remarked that she had never seen such tempting contest prizes in all her years living in this area!
The sponsors were pleased, the teams were pleased. Both parties won.
How did I do it?
It’s The Re-Frame
Re-frame your proposition. That’s what I did.
Businesses want exposure, publicity, goodwill. They want people to know them better – they want to look GOOD. So how could I make them look good?
Their logo on our 6-foot banners, which were strung up in the residential area (our design team did an excellent job coming up with the banner design). Each time people walked past or drove past these banners, these businesses would get their ‘air time’. As the banners were put up for 2 weeks, the sponsors were super pleased with the ‘air time’ and goodwill.
But that is not all.
My generous sponsors were mentioned over and over in the community blog and our own blogs. As we’re big users of Facebook and Twitter, the hunt was also mentioned over and over in these channels. Our event was also supported by The Star which published our event announcement in their newspaper (it pays to be respectful of newspapers and their editors).
The sponsors were invited to attend the celebration dinner where we once more thanked them openly. When giving out the prizes, we had put up a projector and ran Powerpoint slides again with the sponsors’ logos.
When the hunt was over, the results were put up on the blog and again, their logos featured as we had put up the entire Powerpoint slide too.
The sponsors’ prizes were displayed during the dinner and we even took the liberty to help them pass out their brochures to the dinner attendees.
And these sponsors will once again be thanked (this time in print) when the community magazine comes out before the year ends.
Over and over, the sponsors loved the exposure and publicity we drummed up for them over the short period of 2 weeks.
This is just an example of a small-scale community event. And all it takes is to know your Marketing well. Know how people act and react. What they want most – find out and give this to them. Let them shine.
Of course, know how to craft persuasion into your email when you ask for help. This is where Marketing meets Copywriting. Don’t write a typically boring email and expect people to hand over their money!
I have another story of how we packed a room full of people for a weekday event in Georgetown (which everyone said no one would attend!). Do come back for that.
Basically it comes down to this – what you offer (your value), how you write or craft your appeal and the kinds of people you ought to target with that appeal (not everyone is your target audience).
More about this in my next blog post!