Why engage philanthropically with causes that hold their programming hostage and offer small trinkets as rewards for making a gift?  The premise of the disruption fundraising technique is to annoy people enough that they take action.  It is akin to the child pulling at their parents pant leg and chanting, ‘mom, mom, mom…’  The conclusion available to the audience is that the cause can think of no more inspirational way to connect with its followers than to aggressively panhandel.

Is the disruption model reflective of a relationship built on trust and loyalty or manipulation and transactional interest?

Better than Facebook?


MarketPlace on American Public Media had the following exchange between Kai Ryssdal and Phil Fernandez regarding Facebook’s pre-Initial Public Offering roadshow:

Ryssdal: But if it goes bad in one of these 10 to 15 minute meetings, you’re probably have like nine more set up that day, right?
Fernandez: Nine or 25 or something like that. I’ve done them from San Diego to Los Angeles to Denver to Minneapolis to New York, all in the same day.
Ryssdal: Yeah, sounds grueling. Sounds like not a whole lot of fun.
Fernandez: You know, it’s an incredible high because what you’re doing is one of the most exciting things in a career, and at the same time, it’s about as hellish as anything I’ve ever been through.
Ryssdal: This might seem like kind of a rookie question to ask, but why do we need roadshows? Why do you guys have to go do this? Isn’t there a better way?
Fernandez: You’d sure like there to be a better way. In all things, there’s this adage that says ‘people buy from people.’ And I think this is exactly what this is — it’s people looking people in the eye and choosing whether they’re going to do business with them.
The interview highlights a fundamental point that people connect with people.  A corporation, (even Facebook) cannot create an emotional reaction by itself and with all it knows about us.  The people involved with a cause are the ones who ultimately give it a heart and soul.  This is why direct mail campaigns rarely move the needle when it comes to participation and transformative giving.  It is easy to ignore or select a token gift in response.  However, when your best friend takes you by the arm and says you have to have a very specific experience that resonates with your belief system, it can generate a chemical, biological, and physiological reaction.   If you are moved emotionally, you are ready to do what you can in your power to make a difference.
So often we are afraid to meet face-to-face with another person and ask them to take action.  We hide behind envelopes, emails, websites, and proxies.  This offers a massive advantage to those who are willing to step forward and connect with a peer.  Our fear keeps us off the stage and withholds our greatest gift, the ability to facilitate a shared experience. 
If you are better than Facebook than perhaps avoiding face-to-face meetings is a realistic business strategy.  For the rest of us, maximizing a human connection is the greatest act we can take on behalf of a cause we support.


“They have you doing a lot of jobs at once,” I remarked to the young man who was attempting to simultaneously work the register and dole out rewards to customers redeeming their game coupons.  It struck me that “they” was an umbrella statement to cover some anonymous figure who I believed to represent management or authority.  They was faceless.  I have come to expect a they for airlines, hotel chains, large box stores, telephone solicitations and such.  I am more alarmed when the concept of they trickles down to small organizations.  If the concept of they embeds itself into a micro-enterprise, the coalition of those dedicated to a shared purpose is lost along with trust and authenticity.  

When we describe management or authority as ‘they’ then the most powerful point of interface fades away, the human connection.  When we no longer connect with a person then we jettison emotion.  I have yet to met an organization that could make an emotional connection (can Apple Co. really love you), however I have encountered a lot of people working for great causes that fostered a personal relationship.  There is no they when the team has names, stories, and time to build connections with those it serves.

Why Curosity is Essential

“Open conversations generate loyalty, sales and most of all, learning… for both sides.”  Seth Godin’s post was perfect.  You either respond with an answer and close the conversation or you get curious and ask a question in response.  The difference is about relationships.  When dating there is an attraction to those who ask questions to get to know more about you.  There is less synergy when there are only answers.  If you are a little curious you might find out something fascinating.  A simple group icebreaker is to play the game, Two Truths and a Lie.  Have individuals share two facts about their life and one fib.  It is not so much about what you have done but the questions that come from the exercise.

Quality of Your Relationship

What type of relationship does your enterprise have with its customers, donors, volunteers, staff, board, and community?  Is it authentic and built on trust?  Do you attract people who are committed to your purpose and vision?  Do you take everyone who raises their hand or are you selective?

Consider the following images that are associated with appeals for funding.

What reaction does this image bring forward for you?  Some international hunger organizations prefer this or more graphic models.

Or this sign, does it make you feel inspired?  How about guilty?  What story do you tell yourself when you face this type of requests for assistance?

Does your reaction change when the message is reframed?  Does a new perspective or context alter your perception?

Does your reaction change when the image focuses on hope and opportunity?  Heifer International leads with pictures like the one above.

Perhaps this approach (via Simon Sinek) reverses the classic approach to the homeless person sign.  The message on this sign actually generated $40 in two hours for a homeless person in New York City when the traditional approach brought in $20 a day.

A quick way to create a temporary relationship is to lead with guilt or fear.  It tends to make us uncomfortable.  We are willing to take immediate action to alleviate the discomfort.  In a fundraising environment an easy way to standout in a crowded field of appeals is to shock.

What if you build a relationship on a foundation of inspiration.  What if you are selective about who you attract to your cause.  Would it change the quality of your interactions if people were considering their purpose in the context of your cause?

What type of relationships is your cause cultivating?