So far, I’ve talked to over 200 organizations in 2011 about joining globalgiving. Most of these organizations are small, nascent, emerging community based operations. Many of them don’t seem to understand why they can’t get a single donation in the globalgiving open challenge. Here’s why.
If only one person is involved you won’t succeed. If only five are involved, you won’t reach 50 donations. Successful organizations will likely have at least 50 people sharing information about your project on Facebook, Twitter, by email, over the phone, at community gatherings, in the market, at church, on a blog, or simply by word of mouth.
If you haven’t contacted 50 people yourself, you won’t get 50 donations. Even if you contacted 500 yourself, chances are that only 35 of them are real friends – the kind who will do what it takes to support your project. Those who analyze social networks find very few people are able to sustain strong personal relationships with more than 50 people – the kind that build trust: http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2010/11/the-path-to-social-network-tranquility-is-lined-by-50-friends/
The typical person has 5 close personal friends, 15 people they contact weekly, and 50 people with whom he or she shares true deep trust.
Therefore, you cannot succeed alone, period. Full stop. You can, however, succeed by sharing the goal among each of the 5 to 15 other people in your organization and other close friends who want you to succeed.
I rank these methods in order, from least effective to most effective:
- Form letter – mass email to over 50 people, with no acknowledgement that you thought about the recipient as a person.
- Blog post – unless you tell people who care about you or your cause to go read it, nobody will find it.
- Facebook status update – posting a link to the project is better, because at least those who might see it are people whom know you. But it is not personalized, and Facebook has mechanisms that prevent most people in your network from seeing it! If you have 300 friends, only about 30 are seeing everything you post. If just 5 of them share and repost what you share to their friends, you are doing quite well!
- Personal email to one person – effective if you write it in a personal way. You are better off getting all of those 15 intimate, lifelong friends to talk to each of their friends, than you are writing to the 200 people in your address book. It may take multiple emails (e.g. a conversation) to achieve this goal.
- Calling one person up on the phone – the human voice carries much more emotion and gravity than written correspondence. Show people they are important by calling them and listening to them.
- Face to face – meet people for tea or coffee, just to chat. Share your vision, listen to their life goals and challenges. Don’t “sell” an idea, but rather, just be a friend. Your friends will help you get the word out, often without being asked, if you are a friend yourself.
- Organize your network of 15 intimate contacts to work effectively together – Do all of the above and meet with groups of your friends. Talk about what each person is willing to do. Having them to commit to a goal is mostly about internalizing this tight timeframe within the busy lives of your friends. But if you don’t ask, and don’t meet, and don’t organize around deadlines, they won’t meet that deadline.
Not everyone can give money. And money alone will not help you succeed. Trust is more valuable than money. In fact, trust cannot be given to you by anyone; the person who endorses you to his friend still retains that trust and serves as a “trust bridge” between your organization and that person. Therefore, ask those who trust you most to do what it takes to spread the word to people they trust, and ask those people to do likewise. In Africa, it may take 10 people building trust for every 1 person who is able to give money to your organization.
Do you ask others for what you yourself would not be willing to do? If a friend or co-worker cannot give money, maybe they know someone well who can. Every African knows one person with a credit card and money – often living in another country. People you know well may not have money, but they can be the bridge and the advocate to this one person.
Facebook is very useful to explaining the challenge. It allows you to tell a shory with pictures, links, and a conversation. Face to face meetings also allow the same.
What do you offer people in the way of a narrative about the project, it’s beneficiaries, the community, and the needs that can help them explain the cause to others? Have your friends visited your project? Can they personally witness to the great work you are doing? Have you arranged for people to visit your project, so that they can advocate for it better – through personal testimony?
Again, Facebook and GlobalGiving make donating money to an organization just a few clicks of a mouse, when one has a credit card.
If you haven’t, you probably won’t understand how to build relationships with people online. Local fundraising success trains you for online fundraising success.
And lastly, have you even looked at what other successful organizations are doing in the same challenge?
In every batch of tiny, nascent, community organizations trying to break out of the funding trap*, there are a few that succeed. Learn from them. Email them for advice (not money!). Most will share with you what works for them.
* the funding trap: you are a new, small organization, so no grantmakers will take a chance with you. Therefore you cannot get the funds to show that you are not risky as a grant recipient.