The view from 30,000 feet: You have a grassroots army of people working on behalf of your cause. This impressive group is comprised of participants, donors and volunteers. They’re all key to your success.

Is it important to understand what motivates them? You bet! By understanding what motivates your supporters, you can mobilize them to accomplish the goals of your organization. Once in awhile it’s smart to step back and take a look at WHY active participants stay….well….active.

What motivates the people that “work” for you by volunteering their time, raising awareness, talking up your organization, asking their friends for donations, walking/running/biking and otherwise putting their bodies on the line?

It’s certainly not a paycheck, and it’s not the recognition (although a sincere thank you is always welcomed!). People get involved with a cause so they can feel good. Empowered. A part of the solution. They get involved because they believe they can make a difference. They get involved so they can look back on their lives and feel at peace with the contribution they’ve made to create a better world. Sure, they’re susceptible to a “nudge” (the offer of a free ipod or some such perk) but by and large they’re after the same long-range goal of your organization.

So how can you help them feel the way they yearn to feel, and (here’s the tricky part) keep them engaged over time?

Quantify – Pull back the curtain: How much of an impact has your event/funding had in moving the cause forward? How many individuals have been helped? How many lives have been saved? How many research dollars have been put in the pipeline because of your organization/event?

Show progress – Statistics can be your friend. Compare the “State of the Problem” two, five and ten years ago. If at all possible, drill down to the individual level: “x” number of meals have been served (mammograms performed, animal lives saved, acres of rainforest spared) in “x” (city) in “x” (month).

Make it personal – Share success stories and testimonials of those who have benefited from your efforts. No one can put your impact in clearer terms than someone who has directly benefitted from your efforts. Keep it real, raw and honest.

Reinforce the importance of their role – Bring it home. The power of one is undeniable. Give your participants a basis to measure their personal impact. If $125 pays for a life-saving mammogram, tell them so! If $1,000 feeds 1,000 sheltered animals for a month, make sure they know it. Every person’s contribution counts; let them know how much. Make them proud of the impact they’ve already had and give them the data they need to formulate a strong, powerful ask moving forward.

Finish with an ask of your own – Why wouldn’t you? Ask them to share the story, update or success you’ve shared with them by passing it along to their donors and anyone who’s interested in joining the ranks of your cause. Ask them to up the ante; it’s as simple as raising their fundraising goal, sending ten more emails today or registering for your next event.

“It’s not personal, it’s business”.

Remember when Tom Hanks quoted “The Godfather in the film “You’ve Got Mail”?

You need to turn that philosophy on its head, much as Meg Ryan’s character did:

“Whatever else anything is…it ought to begin by being personal.”


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