Shared Ownership - We seen some incredible "grassroots" examples over the past several years of how to create sustainable giving movements of small donors, the movement to elect President Obama standing out as one of the most expansive ones. From one of the great thought leaders on the subject of movements, Brains of Fire, comes this nugget of wisdom about how to effect changes in behavior:
...[S]imply having a conversation (engaging) so that people have the right information in their heads might not be the best way to affect lasting change. But giving people an opportunity to actually live the changes that need to happen based on the right information gives them ownership. And when an organization partners with the people they are trying to help and involves them in the process of whatever they do, we call that shared ownership.
So the question becomes how are you giving your patrons and donors a sense that they share in the work they see on stage. I'm not talking about handing over artistic control. I'm talking about opportunities to acknowledge that they, by being active supporters, not just observers, are a part of that artistic product. That by contributing even a small amount, they ensure that their experiences will live on through the work you create, that they become an integral part of the creation of art, that their choice to give is a way to reflect the way that the artistic work has touched them. Invite your donors, especially your small donors into your work in small and big ways so that they feel that they share the ownership of their experiences with you.
Influence - Reading Living Philanthropic and about Carlo's amazing journey of giving small gifts all year to a wide range of organizations. Carlo's $3,000+ given so far is impressive on its own (and stresses the importance of organizations allowing repeated interval giving programs as it allows small donors to give so much more!), but what is even more fascinating is that his small gifts have spurred those following his quest to give another $5,600, nearly tripling the good he's done through his own giving! That should be an eye-opener to anyone.
I've long known that the reason we list all those names in our show programs and on our walls was not only to thank our donors, but also to show off the names to other potential big givers. Seeing the names of the people we respect helps us engender trust, might spur some friendly competitive giving among friends, or even cause a little embarrassment that you aren't giving as much as your associate. There are all sorts of positive and negative emotions that come up in those situation. But what I see Carlo doing is, in fact, positive leadership.
Small donors, especially, aren't likely to spend as much time doing heavy research on the people they give to. But influencers like Carlo that are willing to do that research and show their support can serve the same purpose in both a logical and emotional capacity. I feel that this gives us all the more reason to create platforms where these influencers can pave the way to our organizations.
Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, and other projects like these are a start, but they are project based. Great Nonprofits is creating the "Yelp for nonprofits" which can be another exciting tool for awareness and possibly donations. Ian David Moss spoke a little about ideas tying foundation money to crowdfunding projects as well at the Creative Conversations event I attended with promises of more in the 20UNDER40 compilation (which is happily now on its way to me). These projects have a certain amount of influencer cred built-in, and it can be developed further.
People give to people is rule number 2 in my development rulebook. The idea that they give because of other people they trust too is not such a stretch.
Loyalty - I cannot stress enough how important loyalty and experience management is to the process. We call these donations "small", but for the people giving, we can't ever forget that it is a significant amount to them, no matter the actual number figure involved. If we aren't giving them an experience worthy of them giving to us, then they simply aren't going to give, let alone come to another show. From our advertising to our box office to the house management to artistic product to the marketing retention programs to the development events to the annual fund to the advocacy groups that reach out on our behalf, every step of the process needs to draw the potential patron in and move them to greater levels of loyalty through the experiences we create. It's a never-ending job, but hopefully it's a joyful one for everyone involved in the process.
Are there other factors that you'd consider? Leave a comment. This is by no means a definitive list, just the top three things I would consider in developing a grassroots small donor program.