The other day, one of my neighbors sent around an email asking to borrow a large duffle bag. The family was heading to Hawaii for 9 days, and they really wanted to take their boogie boards with them but didn’t own a bag large enough to pack them in for the plane trip. They didn’t want to have to buy or rent boogie boards when they got to Hawaii.
Full disclaimer in case said neighbor reads this: I totally would have leant you the bag if I had one like that, and I’m sorry for using your well deserved family vacation as an object lesson for how not to ask for things if you’re a nonprofit. I hope you had an amazing time.
Now, for my nonprofit readers: you can perhaps imagine what my initial, gut-level reaction was upon reading my neighbor’s request. If not, it went something like this: The only way I would be digging around my attic to find a giant duffle bag is if I was going to Hawaii. Buy your own damn bag.
Of course, my rational, altruistic self then kicked in, and I realized that I would love to help, but I don’t own a bag like they needed. And probably someone else did, so really, I didn’t need to go digging around in the attic to make sure.
And then another email came in from a friend looking for childcare so she could go to a party with her husband – their first date in the two years since their son was born.
My gut-level reaction to that request? YES, I would LOVE to help you out.
When you’re asking your donors for money, are you making the right pitch?
Both my neighbors and my friend were asking for something that wasn’t completely necessary. There were no lives at stake, just convenience and fun.
My neighbors made a practical, extremely logical pitch: It would be a waste of money to have to buy new boogie boards when we could just take ours with us if we had a bag. That logic got my brain working, but it didn’t exactly make me feel like being generous.
But my friend made an emotional pitch: We haven’t been out alone together in two years! That heartfelt request moved me to immediate action, and I thought, “I can make that happen for her.”
When you’re asking your donors for support – or your friends for a favor -- remember: emotion wins the day.