Non-Profit Organizations asking Strangers for Money (Cool?)

I just finished listening to a 10-hour long audio book titled Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini. It is a book that was at the top of the chart in Audible when I was browsing through the list. After listening to it, I can see why.

If you ask any ambitious person who wants to create a dent in the world of what they want to do most in their life, the answer would be to influence people. But influencing people is usually not always done for the right reasons, and some times it may involve exploiting the one who is being influenced. In fact, many corrupt businesses and organizations bring money to their pockets by primarily exploiting the minds of their audience or potential customers by making use of cunning compliance techniques.

Best Example: Used Car Salesmen

According to the book there are 6 principles that are primarily used by compliance practitioners to persuade people to do what they want them to do. Just to name them, they are:

  1. Reciprocation
  2. Commitment and Consistency
  3. Social proof
  4. Liking
  5. Authority
  6. Scarcity

These 6 principles are 6 chapters of the book, and we can all testify to the validity of most if not all of these principles. The author has done a great job of explaining in detail what these rules are, how they work, and why people are exploited by it. Having said that, these principles/rules are not entirely bad per se.

All of these principles are mental rules that we as human beings have that help us decide what is the best course of action to take at any moment. Some of these rules are for our own benefit, and some of them are things that we do just to be considerate of others.

Personal Experience with Compliance Practitioners

Almost every day when I walk out of the Metro Station near my office, I can always find a group of people standing near the station’s entrance dressed up well and wearing ID cards. For the first few times I was genuinely curious on who these people were and what they were doing there. One of the times I was stopped by one of the guys asking me if I could spend 2 minutes to listen to what they have to say. Since I was genuinely curious in the first place, and is by nature someone who likes to listen to good ideas, I decided to comply to the request.

I was shown a video on an iPad that he was holding which described the work that they did regarding the water problem in Chennai. It seems they had teams all over India (or around the world, not sure), with many people supporting them. From what they showed to me on that iPad, and from what they said, it sure did look like that they knew what they were gonna do. They wanted to save the environment, fight climate change, install solar panels in different places etc.. All in all, they wanted to make the world a better place.

Making the world a better place

Sounds great right? So far in the presentation I was supportive of what they were doing. That is of course until they followed up with the reason for why they stopped me. “Sir, may I know where do you work?”. I told them where I work. “Great sir, may I ask you what your monthly salary is?”. I knew where they were going. I refused to answer that question.

He said no problem, and started to create a monthly donation plan on a salary amount that he assumed that I would be getting.

“Sir, in order to support us, if you are willing, you can donate Rs. 5 per day for our cause”. Following that up with “.. it would just be the price of a cup of coffee for you, but it would help us very much”.

So yeah, they wanted my money.

That was the moment which really turned me off, and I politely told them that I’m not willing to at the moment and left. I did not get into an argument or get pissed at them.

An image from a blog post that has the title “Create Lifelong Donors in 10 Steps”. Got to kiss ass the people who give us money right?

This happened about 3 or 4 months ago. But there is an important value in life that I want to convey from this interaction.

If you cannot do something in life that you truly believe in without asking other people for money, then you probably don’t believe in it that much.

I know that this is a strong statement, and it’s something which I have thought through before publishing. Those people who wanted my money to support their cause, if they really believed on it, they would go and work 40 hours a week, and put the money that they earned from their job into that cause. They wouldn’t come and ask a random stranger for money.

And I shouldn’t being needing to have to give my money to them, just so that they can use that money for advertising and marketing so that they can ask for more money.

And I have to say this. This blog post is not the product of one bad interaction which I had, with one NGO, months ago. Just the next week, a group from a different NGO were standing in that exact same place. That was the time I got pissed. You know why? Cause they went through the EXACT SAME speech with me followed by the EXACT SAME monthly donation plan. I mean do all NGOs learn how to ask for money by reading from the same textbook?

What am I getting at?

Going through that NGO’s website I could see that none of the things which they were actually doing had money as a deal-breaking requirement. Just to point you directly to the source, here is what their website says for what they do:

  • We investigate and expose environmental crimes, such as illegal logging in the Paradise Forests.
  • We work with scientists to conduct scientific research.
  • We document environmental problems, such as toxic pollution or the signs of climate change.
  • We lobby governments and industries and take part in global negotiations.
  • We take creative, non-violent actions.
  • We seek out and promote sustainable solutions for our environmental problems.
  • We educate and engage the public.

Apart from the conducting scientific research part, none of the rest actually require plain money to be done. And even for the scientific research, you do not have to do it if you are not financially capable to do it.

One of the things that I really endorse in this blog is the value of standing on your own two feet. We have not been born been as slaves, but as freeman. As Christians, we know that the Bible itself is a book of liberty as it says in John 8:32:

“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

John 8:32 (King James Version)

And the God of the Bible himself, He is a God of liberty as well.

“Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”

2 Corinthians 3:17 (King James Version)

For that reason, we shouldn’t be getting ourselves into bondage by depending on other people’s money in order to live our purpose. Before we start on any course of action, we got to sit down first and count the cost.

28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?

29 Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him,

30 Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.

31 Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand?

32 Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace.

Luke 14:28-32 (King James Version)

All to say this. If you really want to do something big for the world, start small and do it with your own money. Not with a donation box in your hand.

Until next time!

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