What prompts consumers and donors to buy / give?

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 ‘People do not buy products and services’ suggests business coach Anthony Robbins, ‘they buy feelings and identities’. 
 
One company that has achieved huge growth through applying this idea is Apple. As part of their 1997 Think Different campaign, they created the famous advert Crazy Ones, which shows footage of successful, creative rebels like The Beatles and Einstein. The advert links that rule-breaking identity with its brand. And it does doesn’t mention an Apple product once.
 
I recently met a successful businessman. One of his businesses is a string of very profitable car-washes. He told me the secret of his success in this business was understanding that he is not so much in ‘the carwash business’ as ‘the self-esteem business’. He operates under the belief that most of his customers don’t truly need to wash dirt off their wind-screens, but instead they buy his service because when their car is clean they feel better about themselves. He appreciates that there may be some other desirable feelings from having a clean car, but this is the most common.
 
This insight affects not only the messaging and imagery he uses to attract and delight customers, but also how he finds other ways to meet their needs and wants (and increase profit). For example, while they have their car washed they can also get their shoes shined.
 
I have found it is equally powerful to apply Robbins’ concept to charities, as in ‘when people support our charity, what feelings or identities are they buying in to?’
 
How to apply this to fundraising…
 
For example, giving to a university can help some donors feel special.
 
And when parents have very sick children, the chance to fundraise for their child’s hospital ward, in addition to making a difference, also gives them back some feeling of control at a time when their life is spinning out of control.
 
And the teenage supporters of the Canadian charity FxCK Cancer gain an increased feeling of defiance in the face of adversity.
 
Some might say that the supporters of your charity could sometimes experience all three feelings, ie specialness, control and defiance. Or a host of others. But I believe that for any charity, and any ‘product’ or way of giving (corporate partnerships, direct debit, major gifts etc) one feeling will be more common than the others.
 
If so, I invite you to explore what might be the key feeling (or identity) that your supporters are sub-consciously ‘buying’?
 
Focussing on feelings and identities is not a substitute to always seeking to understand and appreciate each donor’s world, every time. Rather it is an extra lens with which to make sense of your donor’s world.
 
And once you become clearer about which feelings or identities are the most important for your donors, it should greatly increase your chances of satisfying those wants. And this can only be good for both your donor’s relationship with your charity, and your charity’s ability to achieve its mission.
 
 

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