The worst way to get donations is to go to people who have money and say, “Hey, you have money, I would like some. Can I have some?”
Do you not think we get hit up every single day by stuff like that? That’s not a good pitch. Even though it’s charity, you have to sell something. In a perfect world, people would give out of generosity. But we don't live in a perfect world.
We all want something in return. So we give money because we want to feel good. If I’m going to give some money, I want something in return. I feel guilty saying that, but it's true. Nobody’s going to give money unless you’re giving something else in return.
So what are you giving them in return? Are you going to get a sticker that says you donated money to charity? That’s what people offer all the time. You gotta figure out what your donors actually want. Is it significance? Is it a product? Is it training? Is it a service? What is it your donors actually want? They’re not going to admit it, but they want something in return.
We can lie about it and act like everyone cares about philanthropic stuff. But the real reason is because people want something in return. It’s a feeling that they’re getting. Whatever that is. If I’m doing something, I want to create an experience that gives them that feeling. You asking me for money is not going to help. You coming to me and creating an experience helps.
The first time I ever gave money to charity outside of church was to Stu MaClarin's World Teacher Aide. We had such a close connection and we’re business partners. So I did it initially because I like Stu and he was so passionate about it. I thought, “You know what, Stu’s a cool guy. I’m going to help him out.”
So I helped a couple of times. But Stu was so smart about it. He came back to me after we donated money a couple of times.
He said, “This is so cool. You’re giving money, but if you experience this you could feel what’s happening because of the money you’re giving. You have to come to Kenya with me.”
“I’m not going to Kenya!” I said.
"You have to come.”
“Do I have to get shots?”
“Yeah, a lot of them.”
But he convinced me to come to Kenya. I got shots and went to Kenya.
When I got there I saw the kids. I played with the kids. I saw where they slept. I saw what they ate. I saw how they lived. I saw their lifestyle. I had such a connection to that experience and to the people. Now we give a lot of money and we do things within our company to help them.
Every time someone builds a funnel we give a dollar to World Teacher Aide. The money is used to build schools. I went last year, I’m taking a whole crew again this year. I have a connection now, and that feeling is what drives me.
So for you let’s say it’s cancer treatment that you’re doing. You have to give that experience to people. I would create some amazing experience where you found people to be potential donors.
I would bring them to a nice, fancy dinner. Bring them to this place where they can network with other people. Do something cool to bring them together. I would have a bunch of kids struggling with cancer be the waitresses or waiters. Or something where they have this connection. They'll think, “Wow, these are the kids that are serving me. How can I help them?”
Create an experience because that’s what gets people to donate. Don't say, “It’s going to be a tax write off and you’re helping…” Create the connection first, and then people will give you money.
I gave money to Stu because I thought he was a cool guy. But as soon as he created a connection with the cause, it became my cause too. That’s the key.
And this is not just for charities. It's for any non-profits.
I was part of a wrestling community and they always ask me to donate money.
If they had said, “Hey Russell, you wrestled at Boise State. We’re going to bring you to the next tournament, the next home match. We want you to come down and we’re going to make you an honorary wrestling captain and give you wrestling shirts and singlet’s and stuff. We'll tell people you were a great wrestler for the community. Would you like to come to that?”
I’d be like, “yes!”
“All our donors can come, you can donate any amount you want and the higher you donate, the more prestige. We’ll give you a gold medal versus a silver medal.”
I’d be like, “How much did the guy with the silver medal give? Okay I’ll do twice that, because I want the gold medal."
Now it’s an experience that I can take my kids to and show pictures. Now it’s something cool for me.
Even if it's a non-profit or charity, it’s still a business. You’re still trying to get money from people. So take everything out of the equation and think of the customer. What do they want in exchange for money? And that feeling, especially in charity, is the key that drives donations.