4 Ways Donors & Companies Will Choose a Cause in 2013

"The Red Pill or the Blue Pill?" (Photo by Paul L. Dineen)

Donors and businesses are waking up to the many benefits of supporting a cause. It’s good for the world, and good for business. But not all nonprofits are created equal. Both donors and businesses are spending more time sifting through their choices to pick the right cause. In order of importance, here’s what they’ll be looking for in 2013.

A Cause They Love

Sincere donors don’t want to support their boss’ or neighbor’s cause. They want to support a cause they love, regardless of what others think. Businesses are no different. Companies are just buildings full of people and people want to support a cause they care about. It can be kids with cancer, caretakers for the elderly, or saving the whales. When you pick a cause you truly care for, you’ll put your heart and soul into helping that organization. And that makes all the difference.

A Nonprofit With an Army

Being passionate for a cause and supporting a nonprofit are not the same thing. You may have a passion for helping sick children, but which nonprofit that helps sick children will you help? You have a lot of choices. Smart donors and businesses pick nonprofits that have active, loyal supporters. Even if your cause isn’t a popular one, it’s human nature to want to be with as many like-minded people as possible. That’s why so many donors and businesses support “pink” causes during October. Whether you are looking for fellow supporters or consumers to buy your products, it’s natural to want to be where the crowd is.

A Mission that Evokes Emotion

People want a cause that has a strong emotional message. Research shows that the top causes are women’s causes followed by children, animals, and men. (Yes, men are behind the dogs!) If your nonprofit isn’t representing one of these groups, you should still lead with emotion. You may not be as emotionally compelling as other causes, but leading with emotion will attract supporters.

A Nonprofit that “Fits”

Do you remember Garanimals? It’s a line of kids’ clothes that you match with different animals. A shirt with a giraffe tag and pants with the same tag will look great! But a horse and a giraffe will make you look like a donkey. Go figure.

Garanimals in the nonprofit world is when a restaurant works with a food pantry because of the match. Or a carpenter who builds houses for Habitat because he knows how to handle a hammer. There’s nothing wrong with this, and it’s how a lot of businesses and people choose a cause to support. But love, loyalists, and emotion trump matchy-matchy any day. That’s why it’s fourth on my list.

Choosing a cause based on “match” reminds me of this scene from The Distinguished Gentleman starring Eddie Murphy. Instead of writing his own speech, Murphy’s character–a candidate for congress–repeats a bunch of unrelated but famous soundbites that sound great but make no sense. In true movie fashion, Murphy’s supporters clap wildly for him. Rest assured that such antics are only successful in the movies. 🙂