The Curious Secret to Getting People to Support You

The following is a guest post by Demian Farnworth Managing Editor for an international humanitarian aid organization and blogger for Fallen and Flawed.

Ever wonder how you could get more people to back your organization? To believe in the solution your non-profit promises? 

To buy into--with actual dollars--your vision to change the world? 

It’s easy, actually. And quite odd the way it works.

What’s the secret? Simply tell people your weaknesses. 

Now, that probably sounds like non-sense, but trust me--it works. In fact, some brilliant ad men in the '60s took advantage of this little secret.

Selling the Ugliest Car in the World

Remember the old Volkswagen sedan with the rag top that hadn’t changed in 20 years...the round top one?

One of the ugliest cars ever made.

In addition, it didn’t have any extra features that any ad man could talk about. Only later years did it have a gas gauge.

You could get so many miles on a tank of gas that you simply drove it until you ran out of gas and then switched to a small reserve tank that held more than enough fuel to get you to the closest gas station.

But when the Doyle, Dane + Bernbach agency was given this account, they must have groaned.

What could you say about the car?

It only had two features: it was cheap to run and it was reliable. But everyone already knew that.

What more could they say about it?

Then they hit on a brilliant flash of inspiration: they decided to tell the truth.

I can imagine every ad man in America coming off their chairs and saying, “You are going to do what?” 

Doyle, Dane + Bernbach ran a whole series of ads that said, “This car is ugly. It looks like a bug. A beetle.”

“This car is slow. You’ll be lucky if you ever get a ticket.” 

The results of the campaign?

Phenomenal. People loved the campaign and sales shot up.

The truth. Simple, pristine truth is an astounding force. And these ad men had touched on a very important key of persuasion: if you point out the weakness, it makes everything else you say more believable.

How This Works in Non-Profit

In the non-profit world this might mean being frank about:

  • The amount of money you need to dig 300 wells in Malawi and that if every person gave just $4 you could meet that goal... 

  • That your church just went through a vicious scandal but is committed to rallying the troops and rebuilding from the wreckage...

  • That your miracle food product for the treatment of malnourished children is made of ingredients that come from hard-to-reach places, thus, skyrocketing the price to make it...    

  • Or that you simply need $160,000 to close a huge year-end deficit. 

See, once you have the weaknesses out of the way, then you can share the advantages.

“We're struggling to keep the lights on this year and our landlord is knocking on the door, but we're committed to putting fifty inner-city youth through school this year. Will you help us? ”

Who wouldn't? 

By positioning the weaknesses first, people view the advantages in a whole different light. And it is a whole lot easier to swallow.

Let me know what you think. 

About the AuthorDemian Farnworth is Managing Editor for an international humanitarian aid organization and blogger for Fallen and Flawed. Follow him on Twitter.