Some years ago, I was introduced to Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk titled How Great Leaders Inspire Action. For those of you who don’t know, Simon is a US-based business consultant. An unassuming fellow, with a pair of spectacles to rival Professor Trelawney’s, it would be easy to overlook him in a crowded room, maybe even in a sparsely populated one.
But Simon’s battle cry – “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it” – has become a clarion call in my professional development in resource mobilisation. The video is 18 minutes of pure gold, and it has become a standard opening act when I facilitate strategy workshops in non-profits across South Africa. (Grab your popcorn and find it here.)
But this is a Ted Talk aimed at the business world, I hear you ask. Why should non-profits be taking note? It’s because this gem is far more applicable to the non-profit world than we could imagine. Simon explains that no matter what the industry, or what is being sold, people resonate with WHY the product is available to them, rather than the product itself.
He uses the Golden Circle to illustrate his point that if you place ‘why’ in the centre of the circle, the ‘how’ and the ‘what’ become almost irrelevant. This lends itself perfectly to our sector, where we need donors to connect to the social mission, the ‘why’, in order to unlock their largesse.
Simon uses Apple as an example (and all of the Apple users shift uneasily in the chairs, unsure of what is to come). People don’t buy MP3 players from Dell, because they are known as a computer manufacturer, not a producer of music players – but Apple is ALSO a computer manufacturer, so why did so many of us own iPods? Simple. Apple’s ‘why’ is that they strive to change the status quo. “We’re for the crazy ones,” they tell us in their one and only television ad, produced during Apple founder, Steve Jobs’ lifetime. If you own an Apple, you want to be different, you want to stand out from the crowd – and you want everyone to know it every time you take out your MacBook or answer your iPhone!
Simon and his team have taken this a step further and have developed ‘Finding your why” workshops for both individuals and organisations, encouraging staff and board members to reconnect with what attracted them to the company they are involved in or life path they have chosen.
It’s a simple but effective way to reignite the passion and enthusiasm within your non-profit and make sure that everyone is singing from the same hymnsheet, because if we can’t articulate why we are there, it’s going to be damned near impossible to convince anyone else to buy in.
To book your ‘Why” workshop or strategic planning session, email the team!
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“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.”