A recent Mumbrellacast featuring Ant White and David Halter from CHE Proximity shone a light on just what it took to execute the brilliant campaign for the Sydney Children’s Hospital Foundation.
Curing Homesickness is a compelling story that created huge awareness for the Foundation, with celebrities, radio and TV journalists, actors and influencers all adding their voices to a powerful film in which life eventually imitated art.
Ant & Dave mentioned that one of the challenges they faced was how to cut through and get engagement in a space where so many worthwhile charities are competing for the same dollars. They mused that people will probably only give to one or two causes in a year, so how to become ‘that cause’ was a crucial part of the challenge.
In another article, Ant said: “....people were donating to numerous diseases and they were almost cannibalising donations to the hospital, which covers all diseases. So they [the Foundation] needed a unifying mission.”
A unifying mission. A story people could buy into. The ‘why’ behind the ‘what’.
Too often, cash-strapped charities and not-for-profits find themselves with their hat-in-hand making desperate pleas for donations to simply help keep them alive. They have the right motives, do good work and are genuinely passionate about making a difference, however, there's a reason they limp from one fundraising event to the next.
They are great at communicating need, but terrible at communicating vision.
People might simply make a donation to meet a need, but they will invest in a grander vision. A unifying mission and vision draws people together and inspires them to be part of the story - whether it be financially, with their time or other resources.
Aristotle once said ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’ and with cause-based organisations this is particularly true. A clear vision unifies people and draws them together into one common mission - and that’s where the real magic happens!
Communicating a need might result in a few nice one-off donations, but that’s where the engagement stops and the story ends.
The WHY is just as important as the WHAT.
We’ve been involved in producing fundraising campaigns for a number of community radio stations and not-for-profits over the years, and we’ve found that the best campaigns are the ones that present a clear ‘why to the listener’.
- Why are funds actually being raised?
- Why does the organisation even exist? (What does it hope to achieve? What is its purpose?)
- Why should I choose this cause over another?
- Why should I even care?
If the primary message during a radio station’s fundraising campaign is to ‘give to help keep us on air’, the listener will simply hear an immediate need with no unifying vision. However, if the station presents a compelling vision, their ‘why’, listeners are more likely to engage and contribute - and not just to the current campaign.
A good example might be ‘help us set up and run a food van that will make a difference to those doing it tough in our local community’. Or, ‘help us bring hope and smiles to special-needs kids and their families with a free fun day run at their school.’
Simon Sinek’s book ‘Start With Why’ expands on this thought. Build a compelling story and show people the ‘why’ - not just the ‘what’. Present a grander vision - not just an immediate need.
As Andy Stanley says, the ‘what’ and ‘how’ we get somewhere is never as important as knowing ‘why’ we are doing it in the first place. Equally applicable to both individuals and organisations, knowing the ‘why’ will help to shape your messaging around the ‘what’.
Of course, the ‘what’ is important. People need to know what the need is, what they can do to help and how they can do it. But if it’s not underscored by a strong ‘why’ - you’re simply communicating a need and not a vision.
If you’re a not-for-profit thinking about your next fundraising campaign, perhaps you could ask yourself these questions.
- What is my unifying mission?
- Am I clearly communicating ‘vision’ or ‘need’?
If you can clearly communicate vision and a unifying mission, your supporters will walk the journey with you and invest in the cause - and you’ll celebrate the wins together.