Classic fundraising campaigns like LiveAid and NSPCC Full Stop still have the power to make most of us fundraisers feel a little envious. What is it about these campaigns that means their legacy lives on?

They build what we refer to as ‘Emotional Capital’. It means the fundraiser is giving, not taking. Emotional Capital means meeting or audiences’ real emotional needs. These may be building their sense of self-esteem. It may be creating a feeling of connection to others, a feeling of belonging. It may be about offering people the chance better themselves — be that learning something new about their world, or just to have a bit of fun. These are all intangible, yet essential needs that in today’s era of increasing uncertainty and anxiety we’re all crying out for.

So where are those big, long-term, enriching fundraising engagements that build genuine value into the supporter’s world nowadays? Why aren’t charities product portfolios full of emotional capital?

You could argue that today it’s the corporate world that’s showing the sector what emotional capital really looks and feels like. After all, Christmas, the season for charitable giving, is owned by a department store — John Lewis.

So how are we going to fix this? How can we build more emotional capital into not just big engagements, but all engagements?

It starts with approaching innovation differently. We’ve got to ditch the workshops that jump to straight to ideas. We’ve got to walk away from the false security of fast-following that leads to undistinctive portfolios. We’ve got to stop obsessing over the latest new channel innovation that will help us sell regular giving in one more slightly efficient way, when all the time we’re becoming more and more detached from our audience’s emotional needs.

We have to know what our market opportunity is, and the unmet audience need within it. It’s about being in the right time and the right place. Just like our WaterAid Untapped campaign, when we identified the emotional need to belong to a tribe of like-minded supporters and beneficiaries who were united in their mission to right the wrong of dirty water. That’s emotional capital.

Of course spotting market opportunities in today’s chaotic world isn’t easy. Which is why we’ve got a team of Planners here at GOOD who are doing it day in and day out, with their finger on the pulses of changing audience behaviours and attitudes. Maybe we could help you do just the same?

In the meantime, have a go at reviewing your existing fundraising products against this Emotional Capital checklist. Does your product do at least one of these, ideally several?

  1. Stand for or against something — Whether creating an enemy, or a vision for the future, having a brave perspective on the world will give supporter the chance to self-identify with your cause.
  2. Say something personal — It’s not about you, the organisation, it’s about your audience. Start with their values and their beliefs.
  3. Tell real, authentic stories — Unquestioning trust in institutions is a thing of the past. Today, people believe in people. And they want to hear directly from the beneficiaries, and the staff (yes you — have you seen Charity:Water Meet the staff?) to believe that change really is possible.
  4. Create a tribe of like-minded people — Give people the chance to belong when in today’s digital world we can all feel dislocated.
  5. Offer the chance to learn something new — It might be a new skill. It might simply be an unknown fact about the world (such as Full Stop shining a light on the hidden abuse crisis right under our noses). We’ve all got a thirst for the new.
  6. Make it fun — Add a dose of entertainment to the giving experience by offering other ways to engage beyond the ask itself. (Why not have a go on our WaterAid Untapped name generator?)

Now more than ever the sector has the appetite for new products. There’s no insurmountable reason why we can innovate so that every charity has unique product portfolio brimming with emotional capital. What’s more, our friends in Programmes have been spotting bigger opportunities for the end user, testing and learning into new approaches, and ultimately innovating successfully for decades. Why can’t we?

Want to discuss this further? Get in touch and let’s have a chat.