Working in the third sector, we know that for people to actively support a cause on an ongoing basis, be that through volunteering, donating or advocating for it, they need to be given the right motivation to do so. To move them from having a passing interest and good intentions, into being fully-fledged supporters, is no small feat.
So how can you build the sort of engagement that turns single donations into lifelong support? Donors into advocates? And prompts supporters to return to you time and again?
In the same way that people love buying but are averse to being sold to, making them feel like it is their choice rather than an obligation they’re meeting, leads to a win-win situation. With more than a passing nod to the learnings of behavioural science, helping supporters to engage on their own terms brings them closer to your mission, and leads to everyone achieving their objectives.
Getting To The Root of Motivation
People get involved with charities for a number of reasons: from the simple channelling of the feel-good factor that the very act of helping brings, to having empathy for, and identifying with or being moved by, a particular cause.
Reciprocity – drawing on people’s inherent need for fairness, that need to give back when you or your loved one has received something – plays an important role in driving support. This is particularly evident in an example from one of our online books where a daughter was moved to post the following, on her mother’s page:
“Dear Mum – today, almost 8 years after your death, I received the ‘Brighter Future Fund’ pack from the National Osteoporosis Society. I am thrilled to have been chosen as an Ambassador for the Fund. You would be so proud mum – that your memory is raising money for the National Osteoporosis Society. Love – Heather x”
This is just one of countless messages we see every week where people are prompted to engage voluntarily and on an ongoing basis, with the causes they care about.
The RNLI drew our attention to one such post where, through their Online Book, one family continually re-engages with the charity, advocating for their cause, some 90 years after an act of bravery:
“Charles Southerden – 1928 – Rye Harbour: 89 years this November and your selfless sacrifice is always in our hearts. Your family will never forget such bravery and you will always be our hero. Your memory will be passed down to another generation and so will never be forgotten. From your great niece.”
Creating a Special Place For Your Supporters
The organisations we work with acknowledge that it would be well nigh impossible to achieve this level of engagement without their Online Books. The ease of access that an online book provides, encourages interaction and makes supporters feel that this little corner of the internet, far removed from the noise and interference of a fast-paced consumer environment, is a very special place where they can make a difference.
Supporters are moved to engage with the causes they care about time and again for any number of different reasons – from hearing a piece of music that reminds them of a loved one or the scent of a particular flower on the breeze, to special occasions such as birthdays and holidays.
“Mummy, a song has just come on the radio by the Scissor Sisters called ‘Take Your Mama (out all night)’ which always reminds me of you and in particular our wonderful holiday in Ibiza!”
This message is one of many regularly posted by the family of a lady who died in 2013. The above, triggered by something as simple and poignant as hearing a song on the radio, has the result of not only providing solace but also keeping family members up to date and involved with, the work of Martlets Hospice, their chosen charity.
Nurturing Ongoing Supporter Relationships
Putting engagement centre-stage focuses on the longer term. There’s an old saying, “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, the other, gold.” Nurturing and developing the relationships your organisation has established with your existing supporters requires far less outlay than having to rely on acquiring new supporters or a constant stream of one-off donations.
Showing that you understand the needs of your supporters, that you care about them and recognise their contribution to your work makes them all the more likely to stay engaged and have your cause uppermost in their minds.