Acquiring new nonprofit supporters

Recently one early morning I headed to the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town to shop and see the sights. I was peacefully sitting at a picnic bench reading a book enjoying the breeze and the sunshine until the shops opened up. My gentle reverie was interrupted by 3 individuals whom I assumed had a special permit to be “wandering vendors.” They had what appeared to be their permits safety pinned to their chests like marathon runners numbers and they asked if I would be interested in buying some jewelry. I said no and they brought out a little pouch and laid out a few pieces for my inspection. I made appropriate appreciative noises and told them I would be happy to visit their shop later. They told me somewhat wistfully that they only had an hour to sell so if I were interested it was “now or never.” I just said thanks, but not now. They moved on and I went back to reading.

My gentle reverie was interrupted by 3 individuals whom I assumed had a special permit to be “wandering vendors.”

No doesn’t mean never

About 10 minutes later the trio reappeared and hesitantly told me that they were changing their strategy. That since I was planning on visiting the shop later in the day, they had decided that it would be a good idea to bring prospective buyers to the stall so they could see the wide range of goods first hand. I silently congratulated the awkward craftsmen on their reapproach and agreed, that it was a good strategy and inquired if the shop was even open, since it was before business hours. They assured me that the stall was opened early just for this purpose, they would be happy to guide me there and we could go now. Besides, I thought, I wasn’t doing anything else and I would be walking to those very shops within half an hour or so.

Invite your prospect to a unique first-hand experience.

Tell a compelling story of your cause from your personal standpoint

The two ladies headed off chatting between themselves and I followed (limping from the blisters of a 4 hour hike the day before) several paces behind accompanied by the gentleman. During the trek to the shop I learned that the three “fundraisers” were in town for a conference. They were part of the food division of Unilever (he was a chef from Germany) and they were a team in a competition as part of their conference. The objective was to double the revenue for the day of the vendor to whom they were assigned and they had 1 hour early in the morning to do this. There were many other teams and each had an assigned vendor. They weren’t part of the sales force for Unilever and part of what they had to do was solve the problems. I commented that there certainly were several: there was no one around in the morning before the shops opened, they were visiting from another culture and dropped into an uncomfortable and unfamiliar situation with an enormous challenge in front in order to “win,” and had no familiarity with the revenue development process.

We chatted lightly about a range of topics on the way to the shop and soon I was being regaled by the owner displaying the lovely pieces of Ethiopian jewelry and beads. While I had no intention of buying any jewelry and very little interest in the shop I was now hooked on the chef’s story and wanted to do something to help them towards their goal. I shopped a little and ultimately bought 14 beads – they are actually pretty unusual – as they were beads that I could use, or certainly gift to someone who would be able to work into a piece later. They photographed me and video taped me as “proof” for their competition and I went on my merry way to visit the other shops which were now beginning to open.

“People give to people” because they want to make a difference or change peoples lives.

I ended up being converted from a non-interested party to a supporter because the chef took the time to talk to me. He built a relationship and I became engaged in helping HIM with the competition. I risked my morning time to follow them to a shop. I bought not because I was interested in the merchant, the beads or the items, but because I was intrigued by the concept of the competition and I wanted to help the chef. I still have no interest in the shop (you can get beads and exotic handmade jewelry ANYWHERE here) but will certainly enjoy the reminder of the fledgling fundraisers and the international competition when I wear the earrings I’ll make out of a couple of those beads.

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