I was a psychology major in college. Loved it. I learned about the brain, personality, and counseling. It was all super intriguing stuff. In one of my classes I remember learning about the sociology principle of diffusion of responsibility. Maybe some of you know of it? It’s the principle that states that people are less likely to take action or responsibility in the presence of a large group of people. When referring specifically to responding to an individual in distress, it’s also known as the bystander effect.
Though it may not be helping an individual in distress, I think the principle of diffusion of responsibility comes into play in a huge way when asking for financial support. Think about it. Here’s a scenario:
You are sitting in a church service and a missionary comes to the platform to speak. You like what they have to say and are drawn by their level of passion and the tone of their voice. You pick up bits and pieces, but you are distracted by the need for more coffee or maybe your wiggly kid. At the end the missionary clearly shares that they are in need of monthly financial support and you look around the room at everyone else. You think simultaneously that you are looking forward to lunch and that you hope some of these good church folk give generously to the missionary speaking. You even consider giving yourself. Then, your wiggly kid spills your coffee on the floor and you don’t think about it again until your walking out the church door. You see the missionary is smiling at you as you walk past and you hurriedly tell the missionary “thanks for sharing, we enjoyed it!” and walk out the door. And scene.
Familiar? This is the principle of diffusion of responsibility. Totally. AKA this is why we ask for financial partnership one-on-one, face-to-face.
Take that scene and think about it – if you’re sitting in a large group of people you will be less likely to give if the person asking is not directly asking YOU. You’ll be sitting in the congregation, just like everyone else, thinking that there are plenty of others in the room that will likely give. And the problem is everyone in the room is thinking THE SAME THING. Thus a real problem occurs when speaking to a group of people – large or small.
As I pointed out, the absolute best way to ask someone to join your monthly financial partnership team is in person, and best done one-on-one. Right? Right. However, there may be times you are asked to speak to a small group or at some type of an event. And keeping that personal interaction and the principle of diffusion of responsibility in mind – what do you do? What if a friend offers to throw you a dinner party to raise funds? What if your church wants to host a fundraiser specifically for your assignment? What if a small group at your church wants you to come and speak?
What do you do if you want the personal connection that a face-to-face appointment offers, but you want to jump on the chance to interact with a small group or say yes to that event?
First off, even with the bystander effect in mind, sharing at a small group or event is a great way to garner contact information and connect with people you otherwise may not have the opportunity to interact with. And it’s always a bonus to make new connections and widen your contact base! So say yes when new connections can be made from sharing at a small group or doing an event! Keeping that in mind, let’s talk about how to make that group ask in the best way possible.
THE TWO MAIN OBJECTIVES WITH ANY SMALL GROUP / EVENT
With all small group / event opportunities you should have two main objectives:
- To make an clear, bold, ask – live at the event.
- To grab contact information from everyone at the event in order to follow up with face-to-face appointments where appropriate.
Let’s break both objectives down and talk about the how-to’s involved.
OBJECTIVE 1: THE LIVE ASK AT A SMALL GROUP OR EVENT
When sharing at a small group or event make a clear, bold ask. To make that ask the most effective possible, come super prepared. Chat with the leader of the group or pastor beforehand and make sure you know the details needed. This would be some of the following:
- How long will you be expected to speak?
- Dress code?
- What time does the event / small group start and end? Address / directions.
- What is the program for the event / small group?
- What do you need to bring?
- Is there any protocol the leader would like you to follow when asking?
- Any special instructions or things you need to know?
- Are you allowed to make a clear ask during the event?
When you arrive mingle with the group and introduce yourself to anyone you do not already know. This will help the bystander effect for many people. Have with you the needed pledge forms / giving information and any printed materials you typically take with you to an appointment.
When you share, fill in the WHO WHAT WHEN WHERE WHY of what you are doing. Make sure to talk about how you were called and take the opportunity to inspire those you are sharing with to follow their own callings. One of the most important questions you can answer to any group when sharing about your assignment is “why you”. Why you are going, why you are called, and why is this important to you.
When you make the ask – make it bold and clear and spell out what your needs are. Do not assume they know. Don’t leave them to fill in the gaps.
OBJECTIVE 2: GRABBING CONTACT INFORMATION AND FACE-TO-FACE FOLLOW UPS
As I stated the downside to any small group or event is the diffusion of responsibility / bystander effect. What’s the best way to combat this problem when speaking to a group? Insert connect cards, the super hero of event asking!
You can find out more about how to make your own connect cards in the link above. Essentially they are cards where individuals fill out their name, address, phone number, and check little boxes that apply to their level of interest – such as “interested in more information” “give me your newsletter!” “make me a prayer partner” and “I want to give!”
How do you use them? During your time speaking at a small group or event, hold up the connect cards while you are presenting and explain them. Something along the lines of “I would love if you took a moment right now – yes while I’m talking – and fill out this handy dandy card I’m holding up. It gives us a way to stay connected with you and share information on what is happening overseas. It also helps us if you’d like to join our prayer or financial partnership team. Please go ahead and fill it out and if you’d be so kind – find someone from your table to collect them and give them to me afterwards.”
Boom. Now you have shared clearly from the platform what you will be doing, why you are going, that you need financial support, AANNNND you also have contact information to call people after the event (preferably as soon as possible after the event – like 24 to 48 hours). When calling, thank them for attending the event/small group and find out if you could meet with them face-to-face to answer any questions and find out more about them. Engage each person based off of what they checked in the check boxes. This removes the bystander effect as you invite them relationally on your team. When meeting with your new friends take time to find out who they are and build relationship, and ask if they’d like to join your team.
So now that we have the basics of our main two objectives in asking groups and small groups, here are some special notes to keep in mind:
SPECIAL NOTES ABOUT SMALL GROUPS
- Connect with the leader before hand and discuss some of the questions above – like how long you’ll be expected to share.
- Ask questions about the group to the group, people love talking about themselves – and groups like to share what makes them special.
- Bring donuts! Everyone loves donuts!
- Find out how you can stay connected with the group at large. Ask them to adopt you as a group in prayer.
- Revisit that same group (if it still exists) when you come back from the field or into the area to strength relationships.
- Have each member of the group fill out a connect card, and explain the connect card while you are there.
SPECIAL NOTES ABOUT EVENTS
- Prepare the program you will be following prior to the event and add elements that make it extra interesting and informative. Come up with attention grabbers and interesting stories of lives changed.
- Find ways to add value to those attending.
- Decorate! Make the event enjoyable and attractive.
- Have food, dessert, or coffee available.
- Time your event to insure that the most amount of people can make it as possible.
- Share a video. If a few of your ministry team members are already serving, ask if they would create a video for you explaining what they are doing and how much they want you funded and on the field with them. If your ministry has a video that already exists, share it (keep videos pretty short though).
- Have a ministry co-worker, friend, or pastor speak on your behalf during the event. Consider having a pastor or well known figure make the ask for you to the crowd.
- Have pledge forms and connect cards on each table before guests arrive. Explain about the connect cards and pledge forms from the platform when speaking.
- Make your presentation appropriately professional, clear, vulnerable, and real.
Do you have any tips for sharing in small groups or events? Share them in the comments! I would love to hear them!
4 thoughts on “How to Make an Effective Ask at an Event or Small Group: Combat the Bystander Effect”
I was told that when you do an event that you should do the “ask” no later than the 90 minute mark. After that you begin to lose money, if you have a longer program, do the ask at 90 minutes, then continue. What do you think?
I was recently at a fund raising banquet that went long, people were checking out and some leaving. I thought they cost themselves money.
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I think that’s right on target and I would probably want to make an ask probably within an hour from start.
Almost all my support has come from small (14-24 people) group presentations. However, because I travel long distances with a short amount of time, I don’t wait for face-to-face follow up. I tell people right up front that I will be meeting with each person/couple in the dining room or other nearby room after the presentation to answer specific questions and to connect with them about our prayer team. No one has ever left early, I ask privately, and have a high closure rate. If I have an event like this at a host home I can get in front of and ask almost 75 people in one week.
I also hold my presentation to 20-30 minutes, 10 minutes for questions and then start meeting with people. That way people can come and the meeting can be over in 1.5-2 hours tops.
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Brilliant! I love this! JF