Let’s be honest: after a while, any song-and-dance routine gets stale, no matter how much passion the performer is putting behind it. This principle holds true for everyone from teachers to entertainers to those of us raising money for our charity of choice. Grabbing an audience’s attention is a challenge, but not nearly as difficult as holding it from one year to the next.
When I first started working with the AFSP’s Out of the Darkness Walk in my community, I had a solicitation pitch that few of my friends or family could ignore: I am a survivor of earnest suicide attempts and numerous hospitalizations for suicidal ideation, and I’ve spent many years since my recovery advocating for increased mental health awareness and treatment.
Naturally, those who were close to me were grateful I was alive to be able to speak up about this cause I feel so passionate about, and were eager to donate to it.
They were the first year, anyway.
The following year, I reminded my social circle of the cause and why I was still impassioned about raising funds to help AFSP fulfill its mission of saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide. Unfortunately, however, my donations waned significantly, and then dropped even further during my third go-round. Not only that, but I started feeling more than a little uncomfortable with bringing up my past struggle just for the sake of soliciting funds. No matter how much I believe in this charity, guilting friends and family into writing a check felt more emotionally manipulative than I was comfortable with.
I also noticed that the only people who continued to make donations after the first year were those whose lives had also been directly impacted by suicide or mental illness. This made me realize that by repeating my “sob story” every year, I was preaching to the choir.
This, by the way, is a completely normal phenomenon in charity fundraising. People give to those causes that have most directly impacted them. I certainly couldn’t be angry that people who donated to me previously weren’t giving every year; maybe they’d decided to put their resources toward a cause that had more recently affected them.
However, this also made me realize that there were people who simply were no longer paying attention to my possibly routine-feeling, by-the-book Ask technique. It was time to change things up.
It occurred to me that according to that Old Hollywood adage, the best way to win an audience over is to “make ‘em laugh, make ‘em laugh, make ‘em laugh.” I knew it wouldn’t be appropriate to joke about suicide, mental health, or any efforts of the AFSP. Instead, I opted to make myself the brunt of the joke in my next Ask campaign.
But how should I go about it? I thought long and hard about what might be a clever way to go online and basically just say, “You guys know the drill. Give us money.”
I suddenly remembered a song from the classic, hilarious rock mockumentary, “This is Spinal Tap.” The short, catchy song was titled “Gimme Some Money.”
I employed the talents of my nine year old daughter. (She was paid in full with her choice of ice cream.) We filmed a quick, silly video of us lip-synching the hilariously shameless, obnoxious, and (most importantly) to-the-point lyrics.
I posted the video early the next morning. Within the hour, I’d had double the likes and shares I’d gotten on any other Ask post to date. Even people who weren’t able to donate this time around shared the post in hopes of getting a laugh out of a friend. This was a dynamic that rarely happened when I was out sharing my somber personal testimony.
What had worked was creating a short, easily digestible entertainment piece with a quick solicitation tagged onto the end. People, it turns out, are sometimes more willing to share posts that make them feel something positive, as opposed to another reminder of how hard and heartbreaking life can be. (Though heartfelt pleas, as I knew from my first year, can work. It all depends on mood, your audience, and where you are in your fundraising journey.)
Even though we’re raising money for a very serious cause, we can sometimes catch more attention and broaden our audience by treating them to a little comic relief while still being respectful of the subject.
Stay tuned for our encore performance in 2018.
Click here to see Liz and her daughter lip-synching their fundraising hearts out!
Find an Out of the Darkness Community Walk in your area.
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