If I Had a Dollar…

I have heard this pitch 10,000 times.

You know, when you hear someone who’s trying to raise money and fundraise for a cause or project:

If everyone just gave $1 then we’d have our goal!

The honest truth is that it doesn’t work this way – not even in the slightest. Anyone who works full-time in the fund-raising world knows this all too well. People aren’t moved because they want to be a statistic, they want to be personally inspired to give, whether they know it or not.

This stark reality hits fast and hard when you first try raising money for anything. After having been in Cub Scouts in my early days I grew up accustomed to asking for help. Strangely, it doesn’t get any easier over time.

But the first reality punch-in-the-face came when I was raising some serious money for a mission trip to Bosnia and Sarajevo when in college.  I thought it would be a slamdunk and I sent out my contribution letters and emails with earnest and with hope.

What I got back was the exact opposite: I received long-form essays on why such and such person couldn’t possibly help me, even family members who were categorically opposed to what I was trying to do. That hurt. That stung, and to be honest, it really hurt my relationship with these folks.

They weren’t moved. They weren’t emotionally tied in. They didn’t owe me anything, for sure, and they didn’t see how it would not just benefit them but that it would actually create any value for others. No words would convince them.

You see, people are inherently self-interested. They are so ego-centric that it sometimes takes a mountain to move them. I’m speaking for myself as well. I need to be moved, inspired, and challenged to say “Yes” to something, as you do as well.

That’s why it’s like grinding teeth to raise a paltry $50,000 for my Kickstarter project, Pressgram even when I have thousands upon thousands of blog readers and Twitter followers. If I naively believed that they weren’t natively self-interested then I would literally say something like “If the hundreds of thousands of followers I have gave $1 then I would be 6X over my backing goal! Let’s do this!” and be done with it.

It’s just not how it works because those people who follow me are interested in getting something from me, not giving something to me. That’s the cold, hard truth.

That’s why I follow people, that’s why I read their blogs, and that’s why I sign up for the newsletters that I sign up for, right? It’s because I believe that I can get something from them – some product perhaps, a service, or a piece of advice and wisdom that’ll make my life better.

And that’s why I assume the many people who follow me still stick around – they are interested in getting something from me, every day or every so often – often enough so that they are still subscribed and still follow me.

Consequently, the challenge is to recognize clearly the fact that your followers are not ready and willing givers but rather hungry consumers and it’s your job to challenge them to be something that they are not.

And now you can understand the gravity, the complexity, and difficulty of that challenge; when was the last time you were successful at getting someone to be something they are not?

This doesn’t mean that you stop creating value for them. This doesn’t mean you give up. This doesn’t mean that you cry and go home. It means that you must be even more creative, even more industrious, and even more clever in your ask.

It must mean that you continue to be the entrepreneur that you already are – you now have been reminded that nothing comes for free.

So to heck with it. I’ll ask you again (and maybe a few more times before the campaign ends) – if you’ve ever gotten any value from my blog as a reader, subscriber, or follower, please consider supporting my Kickstarter project.

And don’t be light on it, if you can. Go big. Why not. The average backing, statistically speaking, is $70. That’s why I made it the best reward for your pledge.

Thanks.