I had an epiphany the other day. Needless to say, that doesn’t happen to me very often. This one happened while I was attending a Habitat for Humanity build. If you are a regular reader of SPURspectives, you know that I work with Habitat fairly frequently. But this last time held a surprise. When I arrived at the address, I realized it was the house I had worked on last fall. Only now the house was complete. Our crew was the last one to go through the house before it was turned over to the new owner. The surprise of seeing our previous work in a state of completion was amazing. It completed the circle. Here’s why that’s important.
If you follow Jane McGonigal’s work on alternate reality gaming, you may be familiar with her ideas concerning engagement. They make perfect sense for massive multiplayer online gaming as well as for her real life alternate reality efforts that involve solving real world social problems. Consequently, they also make sense for describing why Habitat for Humanity is successful. McGonigal describes an Economy of Engagement as including these elements:
• Satisfying work to do
• Experience of being good at something
• Time spent with people we like
• The chance to be part of something bigger
That sums up Habitat for Humanity pretty well. But it doesn’t account for my reaction and the shared reaction of my Habitat team when we saw the completed house where we had previously worked. This was somehow different.
My epiphany came when I remembered Penelope Burk’s ideas surrounding Donor Centered Fundraising. To successfully build a donor base and prepare them for a second ask you must successfully complete these tasks:
• Thank them for their gift
• Confirm that it went where it was intended
• Report the result of their generosity
It’s that last bullet point that completed the circle for my crew. We received a report of the result of our effort — live and in person. What a powerful way to show us what we had done. Our crew was immediately more engaged. We made plans to do more. We graduated from being a casual group of volunteers to being an engaged community. That’s the difference — game theory meets fundraising theory. Viola, a community is born.