Many non-profits, when holding fundraisers, often ask you to raise money from your network. This can take many forms, from asking friends & family to support a favorite cause, to asking strangers to pledge money as you run/walk/disco for a cause. As the non-profit directs you to spam people on your address book, it encourages you by telling you of all the good you are doing – feeding orphans, working towards a cure, ending poverty.
However, aren’t you also bugging the hell out of your contacts? After all, if they cared about a cause, wouldn’t they just donate directly to that cause?
To draw an analogy, in the multi-level marketing (MLM) world, where you earn a commission by selling products and getting other people to sign up to sell products, you are universally encouraged to start out by selling to friends and family. Since they already know and trust you, unloading some of your useless products onto them is a lot easier than selling to strangers. Since MLM companies are often regarded as being sketchy as hell, why are non-profits using the same technique?
And so, for the longest time, I was hesitant to raise money for non-profits, afraid that I would be bothering my friends and family, afraid that I’d be ‘forcing’ them to make donations and imposing my desires on others. But then, in my travels, as I meet a lot of travelers who been going around volunteering in southeast Asia, I’ve realized why this entire thought process is wrong.
Instead, you should think about it this way:
1) People want to do good and are willing to donate money, but they don’t know who to donate to. They are too busy with their everyday lives to go out and seek out a good cause, and even if a non-profit comes and asks for money directly, how do they know if the non-profit is any good? There are numerous bad non-profits out there that squander the majority of their fundraising on self-promotion and executive salaries.
2) However, if you ask your network for donations on behalf of a non-profit, something curious happens: trust in you becomes trust in the non-profit you are sponsoring. It’s the same concept as with MLM – because your friends and family trust you, they will trust products that you recommend. (See movie: the Joneses)
So when you ask your network to donate to a cause, it’s a double edged sword. Yes, many of them will donate, because of the trust that you’re conveying to the non-profit, but you also need to do your homework and make sure the non-profit is indeed legit.