You have to GIVE if you’re trying to GET

People are selfish. It’s something we don’t like to admit about ourselves, or our species overall, but it’s human nature. When someone asks us to give or do something, we will immediately assess how it benefits or impacts ourselves, our family, and our community.

It is critical that social good organizations keep this fact in mind, since we’re constantly asking people to help others or help the planet. But marketing – and behavior change in general – is an exchange. If you’re asking people to do something, then they should get something in return.

Benefits should be something that the audience will receive and feel directly

This is a mistake I see many scientists, advocates, and charitable organizations make. There is a belief that people will give simply because it’s the right thing to do and because they should give. But as much as we want to believe that people will act to benefit a species, or a community on the other side of the world – the thing that gets people acting the most is a fair exchange for what they give.

IT’S HUMAN NATURE: we’re a selfish species and we need to know “what’s in it for me?” before we give.

Benefits don’t have to match the dollar amount or level of effort your audience gives, and it doesn’t have to be financial or tangible (emotional benefits go a long way!) But it does need to be perceived as a fair exchange in the eyes of your audience.

As examples, audience benefits can take the form of:

  • Recognition in annual reports (in exchange for donating or volunteering)
  • A chance to win a prize (in exchange for social media sharing or donating)
  • Lower home electricity bills (in exchange for switching to energy-efficient light bulbs)
  • More fish to eat for the future (in exchange for buying sustainably caught seafood)


Benefits help an organization stand out

In addition to benefits being important to solidify an exchange, it’s also important since there is an increasing amount of competition among mission-based organizations working on similar causes. Not only is your audience choosing which cause means the most to them; they are also choosing which organization they should pay attention to.

Are you having trouble thinking of a benefit for your target audience?

It can be hard. Especially if what you want are donations! If this is the case, then see if you can create benefits for your audience, such as:

  • Exclusive content or access to your programs that others don’t get.
  • Invitations to events where networking and special meet-and-greets can take place.
  • Discounts on products and services from your organization or partner organizations.
  • Recognition on website, annual reports, social media, etc.
  • Swag!

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Bottom line

Identify at least one benefit your target audience gets directly by fulfilling your ask. Let them know what’s in it for them.

This post is step #2 in my guide on motivating people to act. Download the full guide here!