You know the scene. A slightly upmarket café. Metropolitan types sip pricey coffee while in earnest discussion over their laptops. One of them was me, when along came the interruption. Here’s what followed:
Lady: ‘Can you spare some change please?’
Instead of fumbling for small change, I surprised myself by asking a question…
Me: ‘Would you like me to buy you something to eat?’
Lady: ‘Yes, please.’
Me: ‘What would you like?’ [I gesture at the array of fine pastries]
Lady: ‘Can I have an egg McMuffin? [she points at the McDonald’s next door – the one at London’s Waterloo Station if you know it.]
Me: ‘Course you can.’ [And at this point I am actually walking away from the new business meeting I was having. Yes, I leave the new business meeting to go to McDonald’s.]
Me: ‘An egg McMuffin, are you sure that’s what you want?’
Lady: ‘Can I have two?’
Lady: ‘… and a sausage roll?’
Me: ‘Why don’t I just give you this?’ [I give her a fiver.]
Lady: ‘Thanks mister, you’re a diamond.’
I walk back to the posh café, glancing over my shoulder to see she is indeed buying food with the money. And I feel a surge of wonderfulness.
I bought the lady food thanks to a chap called @hardlynormal who I follow on Twitter. He’s a champion for and with homeless people. Please follow him. Among his many words of wisdom and acts of kindness, he recommends that you take a homeless person for lunch instead of giving them money. And you buy them what you would eat yourself.
For some reason, I chose that most inconvenient moment to buy a homeless person what they wanted. And I thank @hardlynormal for the opportunity.
But why did this also remind me of the foundations of fundraising? Easy…
1. A real need: the lady needed food. A fundamental human need.
2. Audience: she identified an audience who might have the propensity and the ability to give.
3. Ask: she wasn’t afraid to ask.
4. Opportunity: although she maybe didn’t know it, she did way more than make an ask. She gave me, the donor, the opportunity to do something that I would feel good about.
5. Upgrade: she did a great job of upselling me! And in a way that made me feel better, not exploited.
6. Thank you: she called me a diamond! I don’t think anyone has ever done that before. I felt great about what I’d done. I’d put my values and a good intention into practice. That’s the great offer that all fundraisers should make to donors and prospective donors.
7. Loyalty: like I said, what I did felt great. So I’ll do it again.