Give it away: Part 2


Read Part 1 first, why don’t you?

The philosophy doesn’t exclusively apply to for-profit concerns.  It profoundly applies to non-profits, but to grok this, you have to consider all such activities in terms of value exchange.

A lot of non-profits think only in terms of the value they’re delivering to their project beneficiaries, be they underprivileged children, endangered species, adult literacy students, or mothers and children in the developing world.  But the value delivered to donors shouldn’t be forgotten.

To think there is no value exchange between this type of organization and its donors is naive.  Donors donate for many different reasons, but in exchange for the value received in dollars, smart non-profits do, in fact, deliver services back to donors:  Services like the feeling of gratification or the receipt of public and/or private recognition.  It is an exchange that every development professional will quickly validate, because it is rooted in human psychology (even for the 3-4 bona fide altruists out there), and failure to grasp it is the downfall of many would-be fundraising organizations.

Here is the practical application of my call to “give it away” in the non-profit realm.  Think of your entry level donor and how you define this person.  $10?  $100?  Think of what service you give this person.  Hopefully it’s more than the tax acknowledgment letter. It’s a thank you of some kind, even if just website generated.  It’s a note that, even if it isn’t, seems personal.  It’s regular updates about the funded work, phrased to let the donor know he/she played a part.

To quote the first sentence of the original post, “you should give a version of your service or product away for free,” and apply it here would mean to take that experience (the thank you, the note, the updates, etc.) and deliver it to the person who is giving less than the minimum $ amount.  Deliver it to the person who has done nothing more than click Like or sign up for the newsletter.  Let them know that their simple act of awareness about your work is the most fundamental level of support.  Not $10.  That is something more and can come later.

One of S&C’s clients accomplishes this with the phrase “to know is to help.”  They treat newsletter signups and Facebook fans like royalty. They deliver the “service” of feelings–gratification, gratitude, and recognition–to those who have yet to make a financial contribution. And it’s brilliant.  The six reasons most definitely apply.  Here’s a re-phrasing of all six, specifically for the non-profit context.


You should give it away, because:

  1. There are a bunch of potential donors out there whom you will be able to have a conversation with, but you wouldn’t be able to otherwise.
  2. You’ll learn a lot more about what it takes to convert a non-donor into a donor.
  3. You will establish a brand as an organization that gives, gives, gives.  You want that.
  4. Your experience giving to those who haven’t written a check yet will actually teach you a few new things about how you interact with those who have.
  5. It’s a competitive advantage.  Organizations are competing for donor dollars, and they are using the “donor experience” as a tool.  A great competitive tactic is to start delivering the donor experience to people before they actually donate.  It’s the same reason some Mercedes dealerships let you take the car home overnight before you’ve decided to buy.
  6. You shouldn’t be protective of your donor experience!  Give it away at a lower level and get people inside the tent.

Whether you’re from the for-profit or non-profit context–whether you’re delivering product, service, or feelings–this theory applies.

If you haven’t already, it’s time to figure out a way to deliver a version of what you provide for free.



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