Hearts vs Wallets or Why your ‘why’ is also their ‘why’


A common issue i’ve come across with charities of all shapes and sizes, is an issue, I believe, to be fundamental, ‘make or break’ - the desperate need to get to know and understand your reason, your heartbeat, your passion… your ‘why’ and then to be able to tell absolutely everyone you can, as if you were a kid who just won a lifetime supply of Krispy Kremes.

To help kick off with the first bit (your ‘why’) you need to watch this short TED talk by Simon Sinek (better yet, read his book ‘Start with Why’), even if you watched it before, watch it again. In fact, watch it now, go on… i’ll wait… 

Simon gives a superb outline of what a ‘why’ is and helps us understand why we really should build our organisation around it.

I’ve met many people working for various different charities large and small, wealthy and not-so wealthy, that really struggle because they’ve grown under an initial ‘spark’ of passion, attracting some support, but then eventually got completely lost at sea, losing their true north, their ‘why’ and now the ship is rudderless, confusing and slowly dying a death.

I see it like this: it’s hearts vs. wallets.

In one hand, you can explain how your organisation is really filling a need and they can give you a few coins, a good set of notes or even a cheque… but that’ll most likely be one of, if not the last time you hear from them. Alternatively, if you can engage them in understanding why your ‘why’ is also their ‘why’, you will not just have a donor, but an advocate, an ambassador and a champion of your cause. If they believe what you believe, you’ve added to the movement someone who will, in turn, grow the movement themselves. In business terms, the ROI is much better to seek the heart first and the wallet second.

Once you’ve got your ‘why’, tell everyone, continuously, for ever and ever, amen...

An unpredicted result from telling all our supporters, I found, was that people might not agree with you and ultimately stop supporting you. Now, I know that sounds insanely scary, we need to keep the funding flowing and your mind immediately thinks about that precious CMS database you’ve built up over the years, filled with all the old dears, friends and ex-colleagues from years ago, that’s about to be plundered to share a message you aren’t entirely sure they’ll all be on board with. The truth is, sadly, you will lose some of those people as your ‘why’ becomes clearer, simply for the reason that it’s not their ‘why’. You may even make a note-able dent in that precious list… BUT… People need to hear what your beliefs are so that they can either align themselves to it, or move over for someone who does. Hearts first, wallets second. You’ll find the people that do engage are 10x more passionate and involved, because they believe what you believe. They are on board, singing from the same song-sheets and will no doubt already be evangelising to every living thing within shouting distance.

One of the most successful campaigns I was involved in, was when at Hope for Justice, we sent our vision statement on a post card, to all our supporters asking them to take a selfie with it and share online, encouraging friends to get involved if they agree. The response was huge and we garnered more support, financially and physically, then we ever had before.

…For ever and ever?

OK, maybe not for eternity, but at least until you are completely saturated by it’s messaging. I heard it said, when a politician running for office is literally completely sick to death of a campaign ONLY THEN had the campaign begun to hit the streets and started to be noticed. You will see your messaging 1000 times more than any one of the supporters you are reaching, so it’s incredibly easy to think the campaign has been seen by everyone and is now outdated. This simply isn’t true, believe it or not, not everyone will open your next email, letter or social media post (how dare they). Have patience, trust that the messaging you have created is good and is reaching people, bit-by-bit. Make a plan, make sure your messaging hits your audience for a good length of time in multiple formats across multiple platforms and stick to that plan!

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About the author:

Isaac Stott is a creative director, brand communicator and all-round nice chap, based in sunny Leeds. He’s the founder of Big Blond Bear, with a career crossing international not-for-profits, global household brands and run-o’-the-mill local startups.