I used to have heavy metal hair. Then I shaved my head for charity. I didn’t have any organised campaign to back me, so relied on some newly learned skills in business model innovation instead!
I ended up raising 6 times my target. I’ll explain how.
Now, Macmillan, the Cancer charity, is running a head-shaving campaign, Shave or Style, so I thought I’d share my lessons learned since I think we can unlock more donations.
The general fundraising model is to commit to some crazy, difficult act, whether that’s shaving your head, running 10k or climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, as a demonstration of your commitment, and asking your friends and colleagues to donate towards your cause.
The money comes from people because they know you’re serious about the cause, that it truly matters to you, but also because you endorse the charity. This is important to understand in unlocking donations: since you care so much, you are their expert. It follows that people trust your opinion that the charity itself, not just the cause, is worthy of donations. Their lack of knowledge in charities is often an obstacle to their want to to donate to worthy causes.
But there were problems with this model that I wanted to fix, so I tried something different. (Macmillan’s campaign does a good job of quite a few of the original problems since then, so I’ll just cover the ones that still offer opportunities for improvement.)
##It’s not about about the money, and it’s not about your hairdo.
I wanted this to be about more than money. I wanted people to care about cancer, not a bald Sal. If I could frame the donation around my family’s encounter with Cancer, and why I thought the charity was worth supporting, I thought this would lead to more donations, raise better awareness about the charity, and align people to the cause in the long run, rather than just the fun event.
##There’s unnecessary friction
Setting a deadline also seemed to create an arbitrary revenue cap, leaving money on the table. I didn’t want to disuade some people from donating if the target was hit.
So my experiment was simple. I’d shaved my head first, to prove I was committed to the cause.
Instead of spending my time hustling up donations from people who didn’t beleive I’d do it, I put my time into a video of the event.
I put about 12 hours into editing. It would’ve taken longer than that in reaching out to people individually and raise £600. My bald head was advertising enough, in-person and in profile pictures. When people asked why, I explained and showed them the video.
The message here was:
Cancer affected me; it matters so deeply to me that I’ve already done something to help. I support this charity already. Please support them too.
which I found stronger than:
Cancer affected me; it matters so deeply to me that I’m going to do something, if you also support me. Please support me.
So, three seemingly small changes from the norm:
In my case, my target would have been £100. Instead, I raised £600. I remember getting £50 from one guy I barely knew right away - we’ve become friends since.
The key to shaving my head before raising money was the video.
I don’t suggest these exact things will work for everyone, but they show small innovations can make a big difference. It’s worth experimenting with this. After all, you’re experimenting with your hairdo anyway.