The stories donors tell and your fundraising

Why is it so expensive at Whole Foods?

If you shop there, it’s partly your own fault.

The prices are high because you want them to be high.

It’s because most Whole Foods shoppers are there because of the story they tell themselves about themselves, and Whole Foods is smart enough to listen to that story, even though it’s kind of a strange story, as described in Web Ink Now, at The Story Customers Tell Themselves:

… how customers tell themselves the stories that define them (their worldview) and how these relate to the products and services they use…. A mother tells herself a story: “I want the best for my family, so I buy only organic food even though I know it is more expensive.”

The weird thing about this customer story is that it’s not just about the superiority of organic food. It’s primarily about the customer and the kind of person she is. And she’s the kind of person who is happy to spend more for healthier food.

If she encounters organic food that isn’t more expensive, that undermines the story.

If she were a computer, she’d do a cost/benefit analysis, and likely conclude that the less expensive organic food is what she should buy. But she’s not a computer.

You can wag your finger at her for being “irrational” all day. But you’d be missing the point, and you won’t change her psychological reality.

If you were the producer of low-cost organic food, you could jack up your prices so it fits the customer story.

Or you could find out if there are enough people who have a different story that connects with your product as it is. If there are enough of them, you’re gold! If there aren’t, ouch!

That’s why marketing can be so difficult: You do well when you enter your customers’ world, not when you stay in your own. Even though you know more about the product than they do.

This has everything to do with fundraising, because to motivate people to action, you have to connect with their lives and their hearts. And because the benefits of giving are almost entirely intangible and emotional.

It’s hard to enter another person’s worldview. It takes wide-awake patience and humility. It means you have to put hard-earned and important knowledge about your cause on the shelf while you make your case.

But if you need donors, you need to go there. You need to understand their story and join them in telling it.


Comments

2 responses to “The stories donors tell and your fundraising”

  1. I really like this concept of finding out the story of the donor… then almost telling the story back to them in a way they’ll hear it best. This certainly takes the most experienced and talented of fundraiser.

  2. I really like this concept of finding out the story of the donor… then almost telling the story back to them in a way they’ll hear it best. This certainly takes the most experienced and talented of fundraiser.

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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