What do philanthropists care about?

Continuing a conversation from last week, I again have to acknowledge Seth Godin for understanding as well as anyone how REAL buying decisions (philanthropic, b2b software sales, you name it) are made.  You should read the full post, “The rational marketer (and the irrational customer).”  Here’s the punchline (Seth is talking about when you, the marketer, know your product is worth buying but your customer doesn’t):

You know that your car is more aerodynamic. You know that your insulation is more effective. You know that your insurance has a higher ROI.

…The problem is that your prospect doesn’t care about any of those things. He cares about his boss or the story you’re telling or the risk or the hassle of making a change. He cares about who you know and what other people will think when he tells them what he’s done after he buys from you.

The opportunity, then, is not to insist that your customers get more rational, but instead to embrace just how irrational they are. Give them what they need. Help them satisfy their needs at the same time they get the measurable, rational results your product can give them in the long run.

Let’s say that last bit again: “Help them satisfy their needs at the same time they get the measurable, rational results your product can give them in the long run.”

So if I occasionally get frustrated with the dialogue around creating more efficient philanthropic marketplaces, it’s because I don’t always see real, honest incorporation of how philanthropists’ really make decisions.    So, yes, we need to move the dialogue forward (in terms of making giving more efficient, helping the most effective nonprofits rise to the top, etc.), but doing this while overlooking / downplaying the donors’ reality is inevitably going to come up short.

This is why I loved Renata Rafferty’s description of “dinosaur philanthropy” on the Tactical Philanthropy blog.  We need to start where the bulk of the giving is – and the bulk of the givers are – if the conversations about measurement are going to have a signficant impact on the flow of philanthropic capital.

2 thoughts on “What do philanthropists care about?

  1. Loved Seth’s post too.

    And Sasha – keep up the good work, both at Acumen but also this blog. I read every single post and you’re definitely giving us all a thing or two to think about.

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