Let me share with you a conversation that took place between two friends on a wet and windy New Year’s Day walk. The Scottish scenery is rugged and beautiful. The ground is damp and slushy and it is threatening to rain.
Friends A and B lead the way, their partners (and your Collectivist) following close behind. Friend A suddenly remembers she hasn’t checked her Mega Big Bucks lottery tickets. She might in fact be a millionaire without realising. In which case, she would stuff the Scottish weather and head straight for the Maldives.
Friend B, who doesn’t have a ticket, reminds Friend A that it would be so much nicer to share the win and take all her friends along on this exotic holiday. Friend A agrees wholeheartedly.
Both friends plod on along the muddy path. It is now well and truly pouring down.
A conversation then follows about what happens to people who win big. The Friends imagine the initial euphoria and the media spotlight. Then, according to Friend A, ‘the vultures’ descend. People who ask for money for themselves, or for their causes. Both Friends agree that ‘the vultures’ are very, very bad creatures indeed.
Seamlessly, Friend B then quotes research* which suggests that a big lottery pay out does not make winners happier in the longer term. Except, she says (selflessly), when they share their win with their family and their friends. Sharing out their win would make them very, very happy indeed. Friend A concurs.
In the distance, a bird circles over a field.
* * * * *
Ever since this New Year’s Day walk, the above conversation has been going round and round in my head. There has to be a lesson for fundraisers in it somewhere.
One is perhaps that, sadly, fundraising still has a long way to go in becoming universally accepted as a decent, honourable profession.
Another is a (real or perceived) difference between preying and benefiting. What makes someone a 'vulture'? What makes someone a friend?
Is it about motivation? Does Friend A want to take her friends on holiday? For her own sake or for theirs? Would it make her happier because they’re happy? Or because it would be more fun to share the experience? Or a bit of both?
Are 'vultures' simply representatives of causes we are not interested in giving to, whereas friends are causes we do want to support?
Or is it about behaviour? Do we fundraisers treat our donors as we would do our friends? Or better still, do our donors consider our organisations their friends?
Google obliges with some nice definition of ‘friend’: a person with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, or: a person whom one knows, likes, and trusts.
A ‘vulture’, on the other hand, is: a contemptible person who preys on or exploits others.
I don't know about you, but I'd rather be a friend. So then - here are some of my ground rules on how to be a friend and not a 'vulture'.
- Focus on the relationship, with mutual affection and respect.
- Be easy to like and easy to be around.
- Show your donor that you can be trusted.
- Be open about what what a donation would achieve.
- Remain a friend after the donation is made; stewardship is key.
- Remember it is all about your donor, not about you
* The specific research Friends A and B were discussing can be found here though other studies have come to similar conclusions.