How an introvert can run a successful charity: water campaign.

During my first charity:water campaign I:

  • Set a goal I figured would be tough to achieve, and secretly figured if I raised half the amount I’d be satisfied.
  • Nearly doubled my goal.
  • Tripled what the typical charity : water campaign brings in.

And I did it all as an introvert, without feeling scammy or spammy.

Based on those results, I figured I’d write a post to help introverts who love the idea of running a charity : water campaign, but:

  • Hate asking people for money.
  • Don’t think he or she has a large-enough circle of friends and therefore will fail at even a modest goal.
  • Feels like it’s a lot of work.
  • Worries it will blow up in his or her face somehow, leading to regrets for even trying it.

When to run one:

#1 Don’t rush it just because you’re swept up in the emotion.

The seed to run this campaign was planted back in 2013 at the Inbound marketing conference when charity:water founder Scott Harrison shared his story.

He asked people to stand up as a symbol of their commitment to donate.

I remained seated, because I wasn’t ready to commit.

But the concept stayed with me for years to come. Had I tried it any time in the past, my guess is it would have never gotten off the ground, because I was nervous about trying it, and didn’t feel fully committed to the idea because it required asking others for money.

But this was a goal I set for myself in 2016, in part because I was turning 40. I figured either I was going to feel sad because birthdays always seem to push me toward wondering why I haven’t accomplished more in my life, or it was a great excuse for feeling good about doing something so positive. Thankfully, I chose the latter and this birthday turned out to be one of the most memorable days of my life, without a doubt. Run your campaign when you feel like the reasons you want to do it come close enough to outweighing the fear of failure.

#2 Start weeks in advance, and break the project up into lots of little pieces.

It can feel overwhelming if you sit down to set everything up in an hour. And you really want your page and strategy to be well thought out, in order to convince as many people as possible.

I signed up months prior to wanting to get started. I spent 20 minutes here, 30 minutes there setting up my page and looking through the pictures and videos charity: water provides so you don’t have to spend time digging up facts and pictures and videos.

This kept me from getting tired and just rushing through writing copy for the pitch and thinking through who to reach out to. On a separate date I donated. You’ll see the first few donations came in about a month before my birthday. Nearly all my donations came in on my birthday, or on the day after it.


How to ask for money from friends, family and acquaintances without feeling like a jerk:

#3 Use natural conversations as openings to talk about your campaign, especially online.

Like I said, I’m an introvert, and didn’t really want to flat out ask for money, especially face to face.

So every single ask I made was in electronic form, except with really close friends. Each time someone congratulated me on Facebook, I would thank them, and genuinely try and chat with them, and then provide a somewhat canned request to donate.

In several instances, they would wish me happy birthday, and then after I responded (which is in itself sort of unique and fun for the person leaving the happy birthday wishes) they’d donate to the campaign a few minutes later, or later the same day.

After my office delivered my card which everyone signed, I wrote a heartfelt note to them, and then asked them as a group to pitch in to the campaign, which they did in droves.

#4 Use a birthday wish to tag groups of friends or relatives.

To the left you see one of my college friends wishing me well. In addition to doing what I mentioned above, I tagged all our mutual friends, to alert them to the campaign, and thanked them as the money flowed in. That got me a few more donations, in addition to being a lot of fun for us, reconnecting nearly two decades later.

The same holds true for family members. You see me sort of chiding one of my uncles, seeing if he’d match what my other uncle gave.

#5 Don’t forget about past and current work acquaintances as well.

If you work with vendors, let them know. Obviously don’t twist their arms, but two former employers and one vendor I work with who does excellent work with health care branding all generously gave.

#6 Use the opportunity to get sales people who always want your ear to give.

I’m always getting pitched by sales people. One sales man who kept emailing me I said I’d give 30 minutes to if he donated $30. This also worked out really well. For once, my time was compensated, even if I ended up not buying the product. The product was something I was legitimately interested in. I wouldn’t do this if I had no intention to purchase the product.

#7 Limit your time with general posts about the campaign on social channels.

Nearly all of the donors to my campaign were people I’ve known or worked with in real life, or people my wife worked or works with or knew personally. It’s worth tweeting and posting about the campaign generally, but limit your time, because most of those posts will get you no response. I pulled in about $100 from individuals who barely knew me — we met once or twice total — but saw a random post I put out about the campaign. I have 2,000 followers on Twitter and a slightly better than average Facebook following. If you have a bigger audience, it might be worth more of your time. It’s worth doing some of that. Just don’t pin your hopes or a lot of effort on getting much response. I also went to large Facebook groups I was a part of and tried to find a way to pitch the campaign which fit in with the group’s culture. I probably wouldn’t have spent time on this, as it yielded little to no benefit.

#8 Ask family members to ask their friends.

My wife is a bigger introvert than me, but she shared the story about the campaign in her office and on Facebook, and we pulled in hundreds of dollars from some of her friends and several of her immediate coworkers, all money I wasn’t expecting. It’s such an odd and nice thing to do — running a campaign for your birthday — that people jump on board because of the novelty of it.


How to convince them to give:

#9 Ask for money, but provide a less expensive way to help as well.

I didn’t want people to feel bad if they couldn’t give, so I made sure to always ask for them to share my link on their social media channels — which is free for them and an easy way to feel like they could contribute. That made me feel like I wasn’t necessarily blatantly only asking for money, and there were a few people and anonymous donors who gave who I didn’t know personally. That might have been where they came from. Some people like my friend Raul did both.

#10 Stress what makes charity: water unique.

There are thousands of great charities out there, but this one hits on a very practical, human need that everyone feels — having clean drinking water.

That means the average person can identify with it easily. What most charities can’t say is that 100% of the donations go to the actual project.

That’s what’s called a unique selling proposition.

Trumpet that fact during your campaign. Those two aspects together help sell the notion that this is the ideal charity for your friends and family to donate to. No worrying about how much of the money you donate will go to overhead.

#11 Phrase your message in terms of how it helps the person giving the donation.

We’d all like to think that we want to help people get clean water because we love and care about them, and that’s certainly true. But if you can highlight how good they will feel about giving — how it’s in his or her own self interest — it’s a good way to persuade others to give.

Along the same lines, talk about what they get if they give — GPS coordinates and pictures of the people they’ve helped, and how specific the information is. Being able to get evidence of where the precise donation went is another unique selling proposition charity: water provides you the campaigner.

#12 Talk primarily about how many people are helped, not primarily about how much money is raised.

In order to humanize the campaign and the people, I kept saying I’m trying to help 40 people gain lifelong access to water. People can grasp that better than saying I was trying to raise $1,200. It also provided a simple way to remember the reason for my campaign — 40 people on my 40th Birthday.

#13 Provide a reason why they have to give NOW.

Tie your birthday or some other notable event to your effort. Though my campaign can run for months, the thrust of it happened on or immediately after my birthday, because that was the catalyst for the event. For most people, there’s always some great cause worth giving to. There therefore must be a reason for people to give to your campaign now.

So provide them a clear, time-bound reason. Sales in stores work off the same principle. Without the sale, you wouldn’t head to that particular store. The sale gives you the excuse to buy. The birthday or retirement date or whatever date you settle on ought to be significant to you in some way you can share.


How to maximize the average amount a person donates:

#14 Put real effort into writing a convincing pitch on the page charity : water provides.

If you read through the pitch I wrote on the page charity: water creates automatically for your campaign, you’ll see the following construction:

  • I open by pointing out the year is half over, which creates an urgency in the mind to do something meaningful yet this year.
  • I stress how easy it is for the individual to donate.
  • I talk about the good feeling the donor gets for giving.
  • I briefly talk about the problem in a way that helps the reader identify with (language I think I might have partially used from charity: water documents).
  • I end the section with a solution they can be a part of.
  • Then I take time to explain the why I’m doing it, and the hook, or reason I chose to do it now vs. some other month, to again introduce the concept that it’s urgent they donate now.
  • I talk about the benefit in terms of people helped, and then mention how that equates to dollars. Again, I wanted people to identify with the end benefit, not a dollar figure which in and of itself isn’t the goal. Helping people is the compelling goal.
  • I remind them 100% of the money goes to actually helping people — not overhead. That helps sell the notion of making a donation at this time to this charity.
  • Then I again talk about the benefits to the donor, and end with figures designed to push up the average donation.

#15 Suggest 3 levels of giving, and make the middle one what you’re hoping the average figure will be.

You can call this a psychological maneuver to help drive up the average donation, which I learned from neuromarketing experts like Roger Dooley. On average, each donor gave $60, and if you remove the extremes, the median donation was $40, which is what I was hoping for.

Had I urged people to give $50, $25 or $15, there’s a strong likelihood the average donation would have been less. That’s because I made $140 feel like a lot, and therefore giving $40 seemed reasonable, or even an inexpensive figure. Had I suggest $50 as the high figure, it would have made $25 feel like the right figure to give in people’s minds. You also see me highlighting the actual number of people helped, as well as the unique selling proposition that all the money goes to the actual effort — all this helps push people to give.

#16 Show you’re serious by making a donation at the highest level you can. This helps you build trust with people who want to see that you’re willing to put your money where your mouth is, not just encourage others to give.

#17 Thank everyone, privately and publicly when it makes sense:

This comes with the added benefit of getting to share the link to the campaign, in addition to them appreciating that you noticed the donation.

Thank you for reading this post. I hope it provides a roadmap to running your own campaign. If you have the courage to try it, it’s an incredibly rewarding experience — at least for me it was one of the highlights of my life, not just my year.

I’m happy to answer any questions you may have. I hope everyone reading this decides to either run a campaign or consider becoming a monthly donor to The Spring.

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