In their desire to give voice to the vulnerable and underserved in society, most cause–driven organizations fail to include their supporters in the equation. By failing to do so, they are denying others a golden opportunity to see themselves in the same light.
A few years ago, an agency for pregnant women/healthy newborns needed help with a fundraising campaign. The agency’s volunteers visit pregnant women in their homes to teach them about prenatal care and how to take care of a newborn. The agency’s typical supporter is someone who wants to give babies a healthy, safe start in life.
At the same time, the agency was committed to a program focused on fathers–to–be. Nowhere in the program materials was there recognition or an acknowledgment of how invested the agency’s volunteers were in giving babies a healthy, safe start in life or, indeed, any mention of the volunteers who were lending their time and experience to reassure and help pregnant women who often have no one they can turn to for help.
Not surprisingly, the overall campaign was not as successful as it could have been. Potential supporters who might have seen themselves as “people who think every baby deserves a chance at a healthy beginning” instead heard “we are an organization that wants to help men be good fathers.” Both sentiments are laudable, but only one truly resonated with the agency’s most important constituency.
It’s important for supporters and potential supporters of a cause to know that others believe in the same cause and are actively doing something to advance it. The reinforcement of belief is a powerful factor in deepening an individual’s involvement in a cause or issue and in creating a powerful sense of identity among a group of like-minded people.
One organization that is especially good at acknowledging the shared identity of its supporters is the Surfrider Foundation. Surfrider refers to its supporters as “Champions of Surf and Sand” and praises them as “a community of everyday people who passionately protect our playground – the ocean, waves, and beaches that provide us with so much enjoyment.”