SPOILER ALERT: This is NOT a post about your Kickstarter campaign. There are ideas that can be applied to it, but this focuses on charities, Not For Profits and NGOs.

Now show me the money. That’s the aim right? Funds being raised then being put to good use to help those in need. And what better way to do it than with an emotionally charged video. Noble, yes, but it’s not as easy as it used to be. In Australia alone, there are 600,000 registered charities. That’s 1 charity for every 40 people and they all want a slice of the fiscal pie.

There are numerous challenges. Saturation is one of them. The general public has learned to switch off when confronted by a message asking for their dough. There are endless streams of digital information flowing at us daily. Youtube pre-roll, Facebook ads, crowd sourcing campaigns. And that’s just online.

We’ve all done the head-down-and-dart-across-the-street-move when we see a backpacker in a bright t-shirt standing on a corner, dreadlocks swaying in the breeze, the warm sun reflecting off their authentic and slightly desperate eyeballs. They need this! Instead of stopping to engage, we’ll put our own lives in danger. Traffic? Pffft. The priority is to escape these predators. More on that later.

It’s understandable. Not a day goes by that someone isn’t asking for help. There was a period a few years ago in Melbourne when there were actual swarms of street collectors dotted up and down the main drag. It was almost comical. A festival of need.

All this comes at a time when bad news is often the only news we hear. Put aside cat videos and anything to do with Donald Trump and the rest is pretty dire. Actually, just put aside cat videos. Donald is…(fill in the blank). We’re under the impression that the world is decaying. Corruption, war, greed are in our faces all the time. So what do we do? We hide. It’s human nature. If there’s too much information to take in, we go into a kind of mental survival mode and turn the filters up to eleven.

This is amplified when it comes to charitable giving. It’s lower down on people’s lists than most things. It comes from a place inside us that sadly doesn’t get enough airplay. When people are “busy” they’re not thinking about others. They’re reacting to their inbox, scratching away at their to do list and with what little time and energy they have left, they’re sharing with their immediate peeps. Such is modern life.

And GUILT is NOT a MOTIVATOR. It may have worked in the past. Sad saxophone and a photo of an undernourished child from a distant country. It had its place. And it was successful for a while. But when everyone starts doing it, the pattern recognition of the human brain starts to push it out of the “important” bucket. And it stays there.  

Furthermore, we need to briefly examine how a normal economy functions. Take a moment to think about your job. You get paid because you help someone do something they can’t do or don’t have time to do. Your skill = money in the bank. It’s simple and works very well because humans are self-centred by nature. I do this for you, you give me something tangible in return. Then I can go do whatever I want with it. Like buy an artisanal doughnut. OMG they’re good!

As mentioned, when it comes to giving to a charity, it requires a whole other part of us. The part that gives not for material gain, but for emotional gain. And not even for the type of emotional gain that is immediate or direct. When we give to a charity, we gain an internal satisfaction that may never see the light of day. It’s very subtle. It exists in all of us, but with what we’ve described above, it rarely gets a chance to shine.

When it does, it’s usually for a charity that has personal significance for the giver. Maybe they or someone they love has been affected by cancer so they have an urge to contribute to finding a cure. Maybe they are an animal lover and are particularly sensitive to animal rights. Perhaps they witnessed a natural disaster, so they understand how that feels. But what if your audience hasn’t experienced any of those things? As an organisation in need of a helping hand, you still need to capture attention and tug at the purse strings.

The good news is there are a number of ways to approach a fundraising video that will inspire action. Be warned, we’re about to go deeper here. We’re about to explore the human brain, the heart and what actually happens inside our bodies in order for any kind of action to take place. Know this and you can create the most compelling stuff on a consistent basis.

1. Understand your audience.

Understand your audience

This is fundamental. Repeat this 2016 times: marketing to EVERYONE is over. It’s impossible. Especially today. Audiences are becoming more and more fragmented and specialised. You will NEVER be able to create a one-size-fits-all campaign. Unless you’re Apple. But you’re not Apple and that’s OK, neither are we…

Do yourself a favour and spend a portion of your budget on market research. Discern an audience beyond demographics and assumption. Dig deeper and find out what makes them tick. Psychographics, behavioural data and insights are where you need to be looking. Knowing these things will help break down the “I’m too busy” barriers because you’ll discover pathways that connect with their charitable selves: AKA their hearts.

The heart is a charitable organisation. It spends its life giving. Every single moment. It doesn’t know any other way to be. So when you connect with your audience at the heart level, they’ll automatically want to give.

If it were that easy, why isn’t everyone doing it? Well the heart ain’t dumb. It knows it’s a softie. It’s aware that if it were to let everything through, it would be overwhelmed. So it has a gatekeeper: the brain. The heart is also smart enough to make the brain think it’s in charge.

If you look at the evolution of the human brain, the oldest and most vital part of it is the reptilian brain, made up of the brainstem and cerebellum. In simple terms, its function is to keep everything regulated and automated in the body. The way it does is this is by taking in streams of data from the senses and instantly assessing whether or not its host is in any kind of danger. If yes, it changes things to cope. Or if it’s shown something exciting or new, it also lights up. If not, it IGNORES it. That’s the takeaway here. If your brain isn’t stimulated in a way that makes it pay attention and/or relax, it won’t ever pass it on to the heart. Nor will it pass it on to the more evolved parts of the brain responsible for making emotional connections and storing memories.

How then do you get past the gatekeeper?

2. Make it personal for your audience.

How to make a fundraising video

This may be the most underutilised, yet important thing you can do. Once you have a clearer picture of who your audience is and what they care about, you can design a video that speaks to them. Not something that just makes them feel a certain way, but something that makes them reflect on their own lives. Attention is a non-renewable resource. If you can capture someone’s attention for longer than the length of your video, you’re on your way to converting them to a supporter of your charity. Plant a seed and watch it grow. It will.

When we say make it personal, we don’t mean making an individual video for each person nor do we mean only attracting people who have first-hand experience of your particular niche. We mean, bring the story to them. Make it relevant to their existence.

When you think about it, even though you are a globally connected citizen, your day to day world is much smaller. You live either alone or with a few people. You commute to the office. You work with a handful of people. You have a finite group of friends. You most likely do similar activities on rotation. You are a creature of habit. You like routine.

So does your audience. When attracting attention for your charity, instead of asking them to meet you in your world, first and foremost put the story directly into their world. Make it reflective of their routine…with a twist.

If you show them their world first, that reptilian part of the brain will let you in. It recognises harmony and relaxes. It thinks, “This is like me and I’m not in danger. Come on in.” Once you’re in, then you can disrupt, disturb or excite, because you’re then connecting with the part of our brains that will respond to it and be more willing to pass it on to the heart.

3. Show the pain, then the pleasure.

Show the pain

So now that we’ve made it in, there are now only two forces that will motivate your audience: pleasure or pain. That’s it. It’s why anyone of us do or don’t do anything. We are either wanting pleasure or avoiding pain.

It makes sense that traditional fundraising marketing is focused on the pain. After all, the whole purpose is to alleviate the pain of others, so why not show the pain and appeal to that part of ourselves that wants to avoid pain? Again, it’s because the pain someone is seeing is not their own. The truth is, if you really want to get their attention, they need to feel it for themselves. That’s why the above point of making it personal is so important. We need to create the connection to the pain in that person’s world.

Once we do that and we have them understanding on a visceral level, we can offer them a solution that will move them towards pleasure. In the case of a charity or NFP, it’s to donate. To give their time, their money, their resources and feel the pleasure of alleviating their own pain and someone else’s.

Right about now, you may be thinking this sounds too esoteric and mumbo jumbo. Fair enough. Here’s an example we prepared earlier. It should help everything fall into place.

The curious case of CARE Australia.

CARE Australia is an internationally-focused charity with a number of programs. One in particular is called Walk in Her Shoes. It’s a weeklong fundraising challenge where a person asks to be sponsored then walks 25km, 50km, or 100km and raises money to help girls and women in developing countries have access to clean water so they don’t have to walk all day to get it. It’s a wonderful cause with tangible results.

We were tasked with helping them develop a fundraising video for 2016. The previous year they’d pursued a more traditional approach of showing happy people walking with an accompanying voiceover about how to get involved with the challenge. It was fine, but to their credit, they were ready for something fresh. They understood that they’d have to step it up a level in such a crowded market.

They gave us an excellent brief that outlined what they knew about their target audience.

Audience: Women 20-49

These include:

  • Caring mums
  • Women interested in health and fitness
  • Women concerned with social and feminist issues

We also knew that these women were middle-class, caucasian and living very comfortable lives.

Emotional impact: To make people feel what it is like for women and girls overseas and be able to relate so they feel compelled to act (i.e. sign up to Walk in Her Shoes for a week).

Call to action: Register now and participate.

So that’s the audience covered. Now to make it personal…

When we started devising creative solutions, we looked at a number of powerful statistics that were shared with us. One in particular really stuck out: women and girls in developing countries walk an average of 6km every single day just to fetch water and other basic essentials.

Six kilometres. That’s far. But it’s also just a statistic. It has no relevance until we make it so.

What we did then was to work out how far 6km actually is. Using Google Maps, we dropped a pin in the centre of Melbourne’s CBD and measured how far it was to go north, east, south and west for 6km. We were surprised at the reality of that distance. Even half of that, 3km, was far. We were crossing bridges, major roads, parks, suburbs, industrial areas, you name it.

The idea then struck us: what would it be like to take a child from this point and send them walking through this busy world all alone? That was the kernel. What made it pop was making it personal.

We looked at our audience and realised that the majority of these women live in houses in the suburbs, so we started there. What would happen if one of them asked their own child to leave the comfort and safety of the family home, then made them walk all that way on their own? Not because they wanted to, but because it was a necessity. We placed the reality of the issues right inside the audience’s home where it was impossible to ignore. That brings us to the pain…

By bringing the story to them and making it relative to them in their world, we were able access their own PAIN if they were ever forced to make a decision like that. If we were to ask a woman in Melbourne whether she’d send her child out alone to fetch water, the immediate response would be “Are you kidding me? Of course not!” Her protective instincts would kick in and that’s what we wanted to trigger.

So where’s the pleasure?

Show the pleasure

As you’ll see in the video below, once we showed the reality of a middle class Australian child walking such a distance, we made the connection to their counterparts overseas who CARE Australia is helping. We then transformed the tone and the call to action to one of helping and feeling good about it.

The outcome?

CARE Australia added over half a million dollars to their bank account. That money can now do the good for which it was intended. How does that feel? Pretty damn awesome! 

A personal story told with heart is a story connected. It will take your audience to a place that’s relatable and emotional. And as we’ve learnt, once the heart is involved, the giving becomes easy.