Wednesday, July 31, 2013

BIG’s Blog: Balloons at the Beach

Imagine that you were to go to the beach on a Sunday and, as you walked out onto the beach, there were 500,000 people to your left within a half a mile and 500,000 people to your right within half a mile. Now, further, you have not come to the beach to sunbathe or swim . . . but to sell balloons. You have a hundred balloons that cost you a penny a piece and a tank of helium that works out to another penny a piece per balloon. You need to sell your hundred balloons so that you can make it through the next week, so you charge $1 per balloon. Then, next Sunday, you plan to come back to the beach and sell balloons again.

Now the next Sunday you may see the familiar faces of those who have purchased your balloons the previous week. They become your regular customers who like you and your balloons.

You do this Sunday after Sunday.

Then one Sunday you come to the beach and you’ve got a hundred regular customers. You have to decide whether you sell your hundred balloons to your regular customers, go home early, and take it easy the rest of the day, or go home and get some more balloons and bring them back to the beach so you can sell more. By bringing more than a hundred balloons to the beach, you can do better than just make it through the week; you can buy some extra things or save your money. Now, though you feel good about selling more balloons week after week, it never occurs to you that you will ever reach all the people on the beach because that is not the point of selling balloons.

My above story is an allegory of how you think about and practice fundraising today. Isn’t it all about the organization? The focus of all your actions (telling your story or selling balloons) is about increasing the number of transactions. It’s very transaction and organization-centered.  

But what about a different story… a different allegory?

Let’s go back to the beach.

Let’s say that instead of selling your hundred balloons, you came to the beach with a thousand balloons with the intent to give them away. They still cost you essentially two cents apiece. When people ask you why you are giving them away, you tell them that your mission is to bring smiles to everyone on the beach. Then you ask them if they would help you give away the balloons. Every third person you talk to agrees to pass out balloons, and one out of ten people insist that you take 50 cents so they can support your mission of bringing smiles to everyone on the beach.

Pretty soon, you have an army of helpers who are spreading your balloons, as well as a small percentage of the people on the beach donating 50 cents a week to reach all the million people on the beach.

Now my story has completely changed, hasn’t it?

My story is still an allegory, but now it is about how you “do Development” on the Internet.

Now it isn’t about your organization, but rather the relationship with people who support your mission to reach the world. The beach represents the world. On the Internet, theoretically you can reach all the people in the world… but not by yourself. You enlist lots of people who are like-minded to spread the balloons of your mission, and a few will financially support your work.

The Internet is a new thing. There has never . . . ever . . . been anything like it. And as my second story illustrates, you must change the way you think about and practice Development on the Internet. But in doing so, you can reach the world.

Oh, and by the way, do the math from my second story and see how the cents add up. I think you will also see the financial advantage of the Internet.

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