The other day, I was standing at an intersection. A man holding a sign was walking between the two rows of cars-"Homeless, please help." When I was younger, I went back and forth about giving money to the homeless-are these people really homeless? How do I know they won't spend the money on drugs? Would it be better to just buy the guy a sandwich?
At some point, I realized, that it didn't really matter why the person was really holding the sign or what they were going to spend the money on-I just felt lucky to be the one sitting inside the car, not the one holding the sign.
As the guy headed toward my car, not one person had rolled down their window to give him some change.
I rolled down my window and gave him some quarters I had lying around.
I was absolutely convinced that now that I had taken that first step, windows would start rolling down left and right to help the guy out.
I looked in my rear view mirror. The guy kept walking, and not one window rolled down.
That's the thing about being in a car. You can just look away from the guy walking toward you and pretend you don't see him. You are just an anonymous Honda, or Ford, or Mazda, and you can't really shame a car.
At the heart of it, that's why I think getting your donors to fundraise for you works so much better. Even if it's just a friend sending another friend an email, it's the virtual equivalent of "looking" someone in the eye, and on top of that, the person doing the looking is someone who knows you, so they'll know if you didn't give.
The way that Gen Yers are interconnected with each other, constantly checking each other's "status", "following" each other on Twitter, recruiting their friends and family to help them move for the 15th time in 3 years, they are really well-placed to capitalize on looking each other in virtual eye.
Traditional fundraising tools on the other hand rely on breaking the anonymity threshold to find those donors who give just for the sake of giving-a threshold that while harder to break, certainly gets at your most determined and devoted donors. But still, if there was a way to make every potential donor feel like we are looking them straight in the eye, I bet giving rates would skyrocket.