If you’re already a fan of Strictly (on the BBC on Saturday nights in the UK), you’ll be aware there was an especially moving moment on Saturday night, in Week 8 of Series 19.
For their couple’s choice dance, Rose Ayling-Ellis, the programme’s first deaf contestant, and her partner Giovanni, did a contemporary dance to Symphony by Clean Bandit.
Midway through their routine, the music fell silent… and the pair continued dancing as though along to the music.
It was a magical moment in which we were given a tiny taste of what Rose experiences whenever she dances.
The audience and judges enjoyed the whole dance (and the couple received a near perfect score of 39 out of 40), but it was the special moment when they danced in silence that we found especially moving.
One of my favourite books is The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath. The book suggests that a helpful way to improve relationships (with your customers, your donors, your family members etc) is to see them in terms of a series of moments. And it suggests that some moments are much more important than others. They say its OK (and realistic) to not aim to be brilliant all the time.
Rather, aim to do well enough most of the time, and then to pick a few moments when you do something really special for others. Through some wonderful examples, they demonstrate you can achieve fabulous results with this approach.
Rose’s dance backs up the concept of the power of moments. Though the silent moment in Rose’s dance lasted only a few seconds, it had a disproportionate effect on the way we felt (and, interestingly, our desire to tell others about it.)
Judge Anton du Beke, holding back tears, said that this was the ‘greatest thing’ he had seen on Strictly in seventeen years.)
How to create WOW moments
Chip and Dan Heath have studied the characteristics of moments that are especially impactful, and found they all tend to create that specialness in at least one of four ways. One of the four is INSIGHT.
When someone does something that creates an ‘aha’ moment, when they help us understand something at a deeper, experiential level, rather simply an intellectual level, that experience tends to also be moving and memorable.
The good news is, you don’t need to appear on Strictly to apply this same idea in your own life and work. One of the learning and inspiration bundles in the Bright Spot Members Club is called WOW Your Donors. It explores how you can use all four of the ideas from The Power of Moments to create more special moments for your donors / supporters / colleagues, to inspire ever better relationships and raise more money.
One particular tactic we teach is similar to what Rose and Giovanni did so elegantly. We explore the question ‘how can we increase the chances that our supporters will get a deeper understanding of the challenges experienced by a particular community (ie those who benefit from our services)?
Three examples of fundraisers’ ‘aha’ moments
Example 1 – Losing your sight. We share an example of a corporate fundraiser from a sight loss charity using a carefully thought-through demonstration with sheets of bubble wrap and pieces of paper showing a large letter E. When the sheet was repeatedly folded over, the audience had an experience which is clearly not the same as, but which offered insight into, what you sense as your vision gradually worsens as cataracts develop. And then when the audience takes the bubble wrap away, the audience experience the sudden clarity of vision that can be achieved through a surprisingly inexpensive operation.
Example 2. Demoralising frustration. We explain how a charity that works with survivors of strokes, help their community and corporate supporters emotionally connect to the frustrations you feel when you can’t do everyday tasks that most people take for granted. In meetings and networking events, they give the supporter(s) they meet a Starburst sweet (that’s an Opal Fruit to those born before 1990) and invite them to unwrap it using only their non-preferred hand.
Example 3. Life-saving operations. We talk about a fabulous charity that delivers operations to children born with a cleft pallet. When meeting supporters, to help achieve the ‘aha’ moment, the major donor fundraiser invites their supporter to drink from their water glass using a straw, that they are unaware has been sabotaged by means of holes pricked in it with a pin. The sensation of not receiving liquid in your mouth that your brain had expected gives you a surprising and memorable sensation. The fundraiser then explained that though one problem faced by children with cleft pallets is stigma and prejudice because of their appearance, another even more urgent risk is that they are more likely die of malnutrition as a baby.
The reason is that to successfully breast feed, there needs to be a vacuum between the infants’ mouth and the breast. With a cleft pallet, this is much more difficult to do, so its much harder to feed effectively. Of course, the fundraiser could have just explained this idea, but she had found that when she had rapport with the supporter and was able to demonstrate it with the ineffective straw, the burst of insight people felt was much more powerful.
How could you use this concept to inspire your supporters?
If you’re intrigued by these examples but don’t see how the idea of using demonstrations could possibly apply to your cause, here are a few tips I’ve found from studying this approach.
Firstly, don’t worry if you can’t think of an equivalent demonstration for your cause. Demonstrations are not the only way to help someone experience a moment of insight.
START WITH STORIES. Clearly, telling appropriate real examples / stories to do with your cause, are an incredibly effective thing you can do instead, with the advantage that they’re much more versatile. Huge advantages with story-telling are that you don’t need props, you don’t need so much rapport, and you can tell them in virtual meetings and to large groups, eg through communication to your individual givers.
PROPS HELP. And an easier way to achieve many of the benefits that the demonstrations noted above achieve, is to instead bring a story to life with a prop. Again, you don’t need the other person to play along, as its you holding the object. But many wise influencers throughout history have known that an appropriate prop can make a big difference to the insight people get.
For instance, William Wilberforce sometimes brought a slavers’ actual iron shackles to meetings, to leave his audience in no doubt of the brutality they were seeking to over-turn. I’ve seen many fundraisers use props effectively, for instance a successful major donor fundraiser who kept a packet of re-hydration salts in her bag, which she used when showing how simple some inexpensive solutions are to killer diseases such as diarrhoea.
But if you do choose to explore ways to make this demonstration tactic work in your fundraising, here are a couple of tips we teach in our WOW Your Donors bundles in the Bright Spot Members Club:
I’ve seen loads of enthusiastic comments about Rose and Giovanni’s dance, and rightly so, and I’m not aware of anyone who thought it was a gimmick.
Beware! When exploring ideas for ways you could create insight for your supporters, some of the initial ideas might be inappropriate, and would end up damaging the rapport you have with your supporter, rather than increasing it, if they think it was a manipulative stunt. So crucially, how do you tell which ones are appropriate to explore?
In our club, we suggest you ask yourself, ‘once the supporter has experienced this, will they probably understand why we chose to do it in this unusual way, rather than just explain it?’ Rose and Giovanni’s decision clearly would have passed this test.
If the answer is no, then the idea probably is a gimmick in that its surprising or shocking but does not add meaning – ie to an important concept which many people don’t wholly understand about the challenges faced by your beneficiaries.
And remember to focus on the people / animals / environment you serve. You usually don’t get best results by searching for demonstrations or props to bring to life the challenges your charity faces, however important they are to you. Though your supporters may care about your charity, they usually care FAR MORE about your beneficiaries. Let that be the area in which you search for an idea.
Can’t think of anything?
If you’re not sure where to start, don’t worry. While it may be true that there’s nothing about your cause that could be better understood with a demonstration of some kind, just because you currently can’t think of anything does not mean it’s not possible.
There is usually (at least) one person in a charity who is more likely to have ideas that help, and we’ve found that sometimes those people already use an activity to bring these ideas to life in the course of their role.
For instance, in the charity that helps stroke survivors that I mentioned earlier, the corporate fundraiser got this idea from a conversation with her colleague whose job was training volunteers who staffed their helpline for families affected by stroke.
Perhaps there is one particular colleague who delivers your services, or one academic who you believe is most likely to already have metaphors / props / demonstrations / stories that bring to life a key concept.
How you do it, makes a big difference
Lastly, we’ve found that in these activities, the detail matters! How you set up a demonstration makes all the difference between whether the demonstration works for your supporter or falls flat. We go into this in more detail in the club, but for now, here are two crucial things we recommend you pay attention to.
1) Clear explanation of the activity, (not the feeling!)
How much to let people know, to explain about what you’re doing, before it happens. (ie Do let them know why you are doing something out of the ordinary, but don’t give away the punchline!) I believe Rose’s moment would not have worked so well had she not let us know before the dance that there was going to be a surprise in the middle of the dance, and that this was dedicated to the deaf community.
This was important, because without this gentle heads up, some of us might have started wondering whether the sound on our TV was broken, and not been fully present to experience the moment unfolding.
2) Tone is important.
A common mistake I’ve noticed is that charities can inadvertently come across as angry, judgemental or patronising to the very audience they’re trying to inspire.
It may be that part of your charities’ role is to be angry at some forces in society that are causing harm. But be careful that this appropriate anger does not get inadvertently experienced by the person who bothered to come to your event or meeting.
Again, throughout this Strictly series, I have never heard Rose say anything along the lines of, ‘you people don’t understand what’s like. You need to understand what I experience’. Instead, we feel she is on our side. I did not feel judged for not knowing what deaf people experience. But the paradox is that because we did not feel criticised, we were not defensive and so she and Giovanni were able to gently help us experience that deeper understanding.
3) Beware ‘the soul-sucking force of reasonableness’.
IF your prop or demonstration brings to life an important concept for your supporters, AND you’ve practiced a way to deliver it that works, AND in an appropriate tone…
THEN beware ‘the soul-sucking force of reasonableness’! Chip and Dan Heath observed how easy it is for us to procrastinate on these bold, game-changing ideas, or to allow the little voice of fear to hold us back from doing this unorthodox tactic.
Our advice is to be on the look out for this temptation, and to dare to test these bolder approaches, even if initially in low stakes situations (like with a single colleague or in an internal meeting), to build your confidence and make improvements.
Good luck! Do let me know how you get on. You can find me on Linked in or on twitter I’m @woods_rob.
These ideas are taken from WOW Your Donors, which is one of more than 45 learning and inspiration bundles (as well as weekly workshops and masterclasses) available to fundraisers in the Bright Spot Members Club. If you’re curious, follow this link to find out more.