People who want to address problems like sickness, poverty, hopelessness, and confusion are champions. Your goal as an non-profit is to show champions how they can address the big problems by connecting to your mission (the solution to those problems). When you can do that donations will become a natural step.
The issue is that connecting champions to your mission is not as simple as asking for a donation. When you jump straight into asking people to help you, “you” become the focus and not the big problems. When “you” are the focus champions can not see why your mission is important because the problems are hidden from view.
To achieve your mission you need to speak about the problems and the solutions not your needs.
Lets say Tom the non-profit advocate needs to raise money for affordable housing. He has been going to his friends and saying,
“Hey guys, I need your help. I’m are trying to help the homeless find affordable homes. Your gift would really help me. If you can give just $50 dollars you can have a cool teeshirt or inspirational book too.”
I do not think any of Tom’s friends are going to give. Here is where Tom has gone wrong:
- Tom is focusing on Tom’s problem. He says, “I need your help” and “I’m are trying”. Tom seems to be doing fine from what his friends can see. Tom started off all about Tom. It was not until later that he got to the point and said, “help the homeless find affordable homes.” But, Tom goofed again. He did not ask his friends to help the homeless he asked his friends to help “him”.
- Tom completely skips the how the affordable solve the homelessness problem. In fact he said, “Your gift would really help me.” I fact, it sounds like Tom is the solution.
- Tom is also missing how giving will make an impact. What will a gift even do?
- At the end Tom tries a gimmick to sweeten the deal. No free teeshirt or book is going to attract his friends. In fact if his friends are true champions a free teeshirt is unattractive. What is the purpose of the teeshirt?
No number of words are going to help Tom because he has made his message all about “Tom” and what Tom is doing. Tom needs to tell a different story. Tom needs to know “The Big 3”.
The Big 3
To communicate his mission effectively and rally champions Tom needs to communicate “The Big 3”.
- The problem your are solving with a champion. At deepest level this is “why” someone should care and “why” you care. The problem is anything a person wants to champion over: hunger, poverty, hopelessness, or confusion.
- The solution to that problem. I call the solutions the “wells” you are digging for the thirsty. The “wells” are the “tools” and “how” of your mission.
- The impact champions make. Impact is “what” change you are making when the solution is delivered. A solid impact is communicated through telling the story of the lives changed by the solution.
Here is the framework:
- Problem = Why care.
- Solution = Tools and how.
- Impact = What changes.
The simplest way for Tom to communicate “The Big 3” is by crafting a one paragraph message, or story, he can share with anyone. Once Tom has that message he can begin to use it anywhere. On his website, campaigns, social media, conversations, or emails.
Lets help Tom out and create a message we can share with him that uses “The Big 3”.
The first part of your message should be focused on the problem you are solving. For Tom you need to focus on homelessness . To explain the problem effectively:
- You need to create a connection between the champion and the needy. Invoking empathy is the best tool to create that connection.
- Be clear about the actual problem. Make the problem practical. Do not get too fancy. Communicate the problem in tangible terms.
You might write,
“Life without a home is hard to imagine but many people do not have a place to call home.”
With this sentence you have created the feeling of “home” and invoked empathy by asking a champion to think about what not having a home is like.
Next you need to focus on the solution to the problem. I call the solutions the “wells” you are digging for the thirsty. Here are some tips:
- Focus on the solution on the problem not yourself. You are involved in delivering the solution but do not get focused on that. You want the solution to be about “how” a champion uses a “tool” to solve the problem. If the goal is for a champion to get involved make it about them.
- Quickly explain the “tool” and “how” using it achieves the solution.
For Tom you can write,
“Affordable housing gives hope to those who need a place to call home. When you give you help build homes and change lives.”
Notice what is missing here. There is no “exclusive” statement. Then is no “you” and “us”. This statement includes the champions.
Do not be afraid of using words like “we” and “us” but be sure they are inclusive.
Finally, express the impact. The impact is all about the change the solution has made in a tangible way. In the solution statement you kept the impact general. With the “impact” statement you want to:
- Bring the impact down to earth and make it feel real.
- Quantify the change that is made and the lives it effects. Make it concrete.
“With each home that is built fathers, mothers, and their children have a place to call home. With an affordable home families in need can grow the economy and impact the community themselves.”
You like Tom and want to help him out.
You say, “Tom, you have a problem. Rejection is difficult when you pour your heart into helping the homeless. I have a solution, made of three parts, that connects givers with those in need. I just learned them myself and they have helped us reach more people. If you like…”
Tom excitedly interrupts you, “What are they?!”.
You explain “The Big 3” and walk Tom through your approach. Tom smiles as you share your idea,
“Life without a home is hard to imagine but many people do not have a place to call home. Affordable housing gives hope to those who need a place to call home. When you give, you help build homes and change lives. With each home that is built fathers, mothers, and their children have a place to call home. With an affordable home families in need can grow the economy and impact the community themselves.”
Tom pauses to let the messages sink in. Then, after a moment, Tom delivers the ask, “Join the mission. Give today.”
Asking for the Donation
Once Tom has a compelling message he was able to take the leap and ask champions to join the mission by giving, “Join the mission. Give today.” When Tom asks for a gift he is calling for action.
When you use “The Big 3” a call to action becomes more than the punchline at the of your message. It becomes the entire message.
In the Real World
One non-profit that does an excellent job of telling the story of their champions is Charity Water. You can see them using this framework on their website, marketing campaigns, and in video. Here is a video they created sharing the message of their mission and how clean water changes everything.
There is a lot more to creating a more refined message:
- First, you should overcome at least one objection to your mission. Charity Water does this by clarifying 100% of their funds go to the mission not their pockets.
- Second, you should ask people to give in specific ways. Charity Water does they by asking you to give in multiple ways, “A little, a lot, or everything you’ve got.” Which takes us to refinement three.
- Don’t be afraid to encourage extravagant giving. Some champions want to know its ok to give extravagantly.
However, what is most important is that you use “The Big 3”. Address the problem, the solution, and the impact.