Have you ever heard a nonprofit professional, speaking of prospective donors, say:
They should give until it hurts.”
Recently, I once again came across this phrase. I shuddered. Nevertheless, I realized that this person was not alone in his thinking.
The Rev. Jimmy Swaggert, echoing the sentiment of many church leaders and paraphrasing the Bible, is reported to have said:
Give, even at all costs, ‘till it hurts.”
Even Mother Theresa, who has been Beatified by the Roman Catholic Church, reportedly said:
Give, but give until it hurts.”
So, with this blog post, I know I’m going out on a limb. However, I must emphatically state that, on this point, the nonprofit professional I mentioned was wrong. Rev. Swaggert was wrong. Mother Theresa was wrong.
Unless you’re dealing with a population of masochists, asking people to give until it hurts is not a sound strategy. Most people tend to run from things that cause pain and toward things that give them pleasure.
I believe we should inspire people to give until it feels good.
Fortunately, I’m not alone in this belief. Recently, Michael Kaiser spoke at Drexel University and stated:
Make giving fun!”
Kaiser is the Chairman of the DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the University of Maryland. He is also President Emeritus of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. When Kaiser speaks, people listen. And rightfully so. He’s a masterful nonprofit leader and a gifted turn-around expert. Whether you work for an arts organization or not, you owe it to yourself to listen to his remarks. You can find the video by clicking here.
Here are some additional key points that Kaiser made:
[Donors] don’t join our family to be whined at.”
“They join because we’re inspiring and fun.”
“The donor doesn’t owe us allegiance. We need to earn it.”
“Donors get fatigue when we get boring.”
In other words, all nonprofit organizations, whether involving the arts or not, need to make giving a pleasure. We need to recognize that people will be more willing to donate if giving is enjoyable, and they’ll be more willing to continue their support as long as giving continues to be gratifying.
So, how can you more effectively inspire prospective donors by making giving fun?