A Panhandler’s Trick You Might Profit From

Recently, I was struck by how marketing savvy a panhandler was on the NYC subway. Like all panhandlers who enter a quiet subway car, he assured straphangers that he did not want money for drugs but for food. What really made me take notice was what he said next:

“I am envisioning a Shake Shack hamburger,
fries and soda.”

Panhandler dreaming of a burger

Smart move! The panhandler revealed how he was going to use the money — just to buy a simple, inexpensive meal. So now his captive audience could put a specific monetary value to his ask: about $10. And as he walked around the car to see if anyone’s heart would open, guess what happened — a young woman handed him 10 bucks.

Wow, his marketing tactic worked! If this panhandler had not relayed a picture of what he wanted, he still might have gotten some loose change, but probably nothing like $10.

My takeaway: I couldn’t help but see how this transaction relates to tactics used by nonprofits to increase donations. I call it Transparency Impact. When you list in your direct mail (or email) exactly how the money would be used with a dollar amount next to it, it helps you gain a level of trust. This transparency lets the potential donor know where their hard-earned money can directly help, thereby translating into higher giving amounts.

For example: Say you are trying to raise money for a school in a third-world country. You may list:

$10 will help purchase books
$30 will buy a knapsack
$100 will pay for one child’s tuition

Don’t you feel more inclined to give when you see the direct impact of your donation?

I sure hope the $10 the panhandler received bought him a nice meal at Shake Shack. It’s fun to see how direct mail tactics can be used, even by people you least expect to use them!.