Friday, July 17, 2009

"Value Added"

What is the "value" of something? In the end, the value is only as much as someone is willing to spend. So how do you create the perception that something is worth more? Creating the perception is what is called "value added marketing."

Landowners in Texas own the land, but the People of Texas own the wildlife. However, private property is just that--private. So how do people get access to hunt "their" wildlife? They do it through a process we call a hunting lease. What this really means is you are paying the landowner for the right to enter the property. It makes landowners and lessees partners with the state in managing the wildlife we all enjoy. These hunting leases are quite honestly what pays property taxes for most landowners and allows them to be able to afford to keep the land.

Good habitat benefits wildlife of all species. It also makes land more desireable for leasing. How this usually works is that someone will pay a set amount per acre, say $10.00. So a 6,000 acre lease would be $60,000--which is why it is seldom that only one person is a part of a lease!

So, why should a group of hunters lease one person's land as opposed to someone else's without charging less money? VALUE ADDED is how you do it. You offer something extra. Maybe it's fishing, or maybe it's year-round use. Whether or not the lessee actually goes fishing is irrelevant--they have the opportunity and that's what's really important. The property now has a perceived increase in value. Opportunity is what adds value.

Value added works in many other areas as well. The trick for any fundraiser is to maximize the donations received, and to find ways to get people to donate just a little bit more. Remember, after 911 the children of New York collected enough pennies to purchase a fire truck! Lots of tiny increases will most assuredly add up. Right now the 48forLarry is going on in order to help raise funds for Larry's surgery.

Collecting items to sell isn't a problem! Actually that's usually the easiest part of any fundraiser. The hard part is getting spenders to spend money. If having a Good Cause is all it takes, then why gather donations to sell at all? Why not just say, "okay folks, cough it up." Because we all know it doesn't work that way.

People use the opportunity to come away with a tangible item as an "excuse" or "reason" to give more money than they might otherwise do. They have the opportunity to say "Well, I paid too much for this, but since it was a fundraiser for Such & Such Good Cause, I really don't mind." Or just the opposite: "I got a great bargain on this at a benefit for Such & Such Good Cause."

Obtaining tangible items give people the opportunity to feel good about and rationalize expenditures in amounts they might not otherwise feel they can afford to make. It is a game of enticement. How can you make the person who is willing to spend $20 be willing to spend $25? How to do you make the person who wants to donate $50 be willing to donate $75?

You know the answer: Value Added. Spend this amount and we'll be most appreciative. But spend just a bit more and we'll give you this token of our appreciation. The item may not be one that will ever get used, but the opportunity to use it is what gives it value and what makes people bump up a donation just a bit more. Value added.

In my "neck of the woods" fund-raisers for these sorts of things are commonplace; the neighboring communities all pull together, and they all follow a set formula. First off are the BBQ plates. The "drive-through to-go" plates are sold first. People drive up, pay their money, and a volunteer hands them a styrofoam container with a meal in it, and they drive off.

Next comes the sit-down eat-it-here plates. Pay your money and get your food! During this entire time there is a silent auction. One gimmick frequently used is for someone (but you better be willing to pay up if you win!) use a false name to go through and bump up bids or start the bidding on items that appear to be moving slow. This creates the perception of value added--it's obvious to others that "someone" wants this item, so you better be willing to step up and bid.

Then comes the live auction. Here it becomes a matter of embarrassment, fun, and competition. I've been to fund-raiser auctions where a rooster went for close to $500 and being marketed as a "living alarm clock." Then since auctioning alcohol is prohibited, an auction for the bottle containing it went for close to $800. Other items are generally purchased and often donated back to be auctioned off again! These aren't rich people who did this, so WHY did they do it? Because the item provided the opportunity/reason/excuse for spending more money, that's why! It was the incentive, the bait, if you will. Whatever, it works. I've never been to one of these things yet that didn't raise in the neighborhood of $50,000.

So with this as my background, I began brainstorming ways to make people want to spend just a little bit more than they were going to spend otherwise. Value added to me was the obvious solution. Increase the perceived value of donations by offering incentives to donate just a bit more.

I also felt an obligation however, to explain to the AF community I was trying to solicit participation from what they would really be giving and what they could expect: the pros and cons if you will. It's ridiculous to think that everyone will use your coupon! Doesn't happen that way. Most people won't, and we need to be honest about that. The advantage to the donor--besides helping Larry of course--comes in advertising. The advantage to the fundraiser is to have something tangible to entice donors to increase the size of their donations--value added.

It should have been a win-win-win. But somewhere along the line I blew it. Somewhere along the line in trying to document for others my reasoning and how I went through the common "thought processes" and realities of donations inherent with all fundraisers I managed to come across as belittling the current efforts. Such was never my intention. However, with emotions running high, I guess I should have expected the possibility--but I honestly didn't. Mea Culpa.

At times like these, the best thing for all concerned is to just apologize and bow out. If the idea has merit it will be resurrected by someone else. If it doesn't--well, such is life.

All I would like to happen to me personally at this point in time is to be allowed the opportunity to step back with some measure of dignity; to not have my nose repeatedly rubbed into my mistake and the resulting responses brought to the top of the thread list again and again and again by people continuing to post to the thread. I have apologized. I am sincerely sorry, now please let it die.

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