A few years ago I got a chance to tour Georgia Aquarium. It wasn’t the normal tour, it was billed as the behind the scenes. It was twice the price of the standard tour and it was also personal. A tour guide gathered our small group of 6 and we immediately traveled through doors that said “Employees only beyond this point”. I knew then that we were in for some fun. We were off to see the wizard! We had the golden ticket and were hopeful for a glimpse of Willy Wonka.
The Georgia Aquarium is the largest in the world, (Over 6.3 Million gallons of water) so they know their stuff. We saw how they filter the water, how often they filter it, fish operating rooms, penguin and otter physical therapy rooms and then to the top of the tanks to see the trainers feed their whale sharks. It was amazing and inspiring and we got to hear their passion for helping a lot of people experience the wonders of the ocean. We also got to hear about the problems of pollution that plague our oceans.
The signage reinforced what the tour guide was telling me in person.
There was also signage everywhere. At first I thought it was warnings for employee safety but soon realized that was additional info for me and other people on the tour. The signage reinforced what the tour guide was telling me in person. By the time it was over I had met “the wizard” and loved the place even more.
Recently I had a phone conversation with Chris Girardi. He’s a stellar guy working with Young Life in Washington D.C. and he’s responsible to raise money, engage donors, plus run the programs. He’s got the whole enchilada! We talked about a range of options on how to best engage his donors. Since Chris isn’t a medium or large size non-profit, he’s got to use the advantages that he has. He’s nimble and can execute quickly.
But I’m getting ahead of myself… those are tactics. We need to talk strategy. Here’s a few thoughts on how you can engage.
Engagement = $$$ + Time
This is essentially the same for all organizations. Those small, medium, large and SUPER/MEGA/DUPER – you get the point.
How you’re asking your donors is important. But don’t lead with an ask. There is a lot of info out there about, “Don’t be afraid of the ASK” and I agree, don’t be afraid of asking audiences and your donors for money but don’t lead with it.
Take me on a journey, share with me why you’re doing this work. Tell me about the difference it’s made. Show me the progress and please, please let me know the difficulties. (That’s a story!!)
Then ask me for involvement – You’re odds are much greater of getting to YES!
Events are one offs
I’ve been at meetings with organizations that have spent 60K (yes, $60,000) on a 2 hour luncheon. When it ended, the room cleared faster than Usain Bolt in the 100 meters. Did this non-profit help themselves by spending their money this way? That’s a big fat NO. What’s worse is that this luncheon was a Thank You to their donors. With results like that, I doubt anyone felt thanked or appreciated by being bored out of their mind.
Smaller can be better
I hear this all the time, “But Dan, we’re not a big organization. We can’t just spend money like crazy!” and I know it’s true. Here’s a little secret, large non-profits are trying to figure out ways to be more personal. But as a small to mid-size non-profit or NGO you don’t have to work on it.
What Can You Do?
Give them an experience. Give your donors and volunteers an opportunity to tell their story by letting them put words to their experience. They’re telling your story and it’s stronger with their words.
Here’s a great example from Adidas. Even as we watch the commercial we see and somewhat experience all the emotions of meeting David Beckham.