Monday, June 20, 2011

Ordinary People, Fundraising and the Art of Persuasion

Part 1 of my interview with Arlene Dickinson, Dragons' Den Star

Arlene Dickinson has a new book coming
out this fall called Persuasion
When I sat down this morning to blog my interview with this amazing mom, grandmother, TV-star, inspirational speaker, and self-made CEO, I thought it would be easy. I would just dive into our financial literacy discussion and have it written in about an hour. Wrong. We only spoke for about twenty minutes but Arlene shared so much wisdom that I simply can't cover it all in one blog post or you'd be reading this for a week.

So I decided to begin at the end of the interview, the part where Arlene shared some of the details about her new book that is coming out this fall with Harper Collins called Persuasion. Why? Because the subject connects with the recent passing of fundraising-icon Betty Fox and with some cancer fundraisers that have been going on in my community this past weekend.

On Saturday, I participated in a Jail N'Bail fundraiser to raise money to support a local Cops for Cancer cycle tour. That same day, a group of 90 ordinary people cycled 400 km from Kelowna to Delta, B.C. in 19 hours for Ride2Survive, raising over a quarter of a million dollars for cancer research. From my Jail N'Bail "cell" by the liquor store at the mall I began to wonder just what it takes to convince people to open up their wallets and give away their hard-earned cash for a cause.

Interestingly, most of the persuading that I have been seeing lately is being done by ordinary people, not by marketers or professional fundraisers. How do they do it? That got me thinking about Arlene's new book.

Genuine - Authentic - Reciprocal
Often associated with stealthy marketing strategies that suck us into buying stuff we don't need, the word persuasion gets a bad rap. Arlene hopes to change that with her book. Her definition of persuasion has three aspects: being genuine; being authentic or honest about who you are and what your motive is; and reciprocity or having a win-win attitude. For Arlene, persuasion not about getting what you want from someone else at all costs, it's about connecting in way that benefits everyone involved. This is something that Arlene thinks most of us ordinary folk (I mean non-business types) already know. I think she's right.

Jail N'Bail for Cops for Cancer
When Arlene first tweeted about her book a few weeks ago, I assumed that it was aimed at professional marketers and salespeople. But it's not. It's for everyone. As Arlene said, "The audience is an individual who is trying to ensure that their voice is being heard and who wants their opinion to be championed." According to Arlene, that includes anyone who is trying to convince anyone else to do something they might not want to do. That could be getting a child to go to bed or asking a complete stranger to donate money to spring you out of jail for cancer research.

Not only did Arlene talk about the idea that we are all involved in the art of persuasion on a daily basis, she also brought up this interesting point: life and business are interconnected. "We need to take our life lessons into business and vice versa," she said. "If you can manage a household budget, you can manage a business budget. If you can persuade your kids to do things they don't want to do then you can persuade your work-mates to champion your idea." can convince friends, family and strangers to donate cash for cancer research.

I suppose that is what is behind all this money (and it's BIG money) being raised for cancer research by people who don't have degrees in marketing and sales but who do seem to have an instinctive understanding of Arlene's definition of persuasion. I suppose on some level many of us know that the secret of successful fundraising is to be yourself, be honest and aim for a win-win situation. For those of us ordinary people who may be unaware that our life-skills toolkit is already loaded with persuasion tools, Arlene's book will help us sharpen those tools so that we can raise even more money for the causes we believe in.

On the Radio & Blogging for the Sun
Part 2 of my interview with Arlene will be published in the coming week. In the meantime, please tune in tomorrow, June 21, 2011, to Fiscal Literacy Radio to hear me talk about kids and money at 1 pm EST. And note that I will be blogging daily for the Vancouver Sun "Your Money" section for two weeks starting June 27 so be sure to follow along there too. And, if this article has put you in a giving mood, Cops for Cancer Tour de Valley is still taking donations. Ride2Survive 2011 is still taking donations and registration is now open for the 2012 ride.

Copyright 2011. Laura Thomas. All Rights Reserved.
For reprint permission contact moneyme at telus dot net.


  1. As a rider and volunteer for Ride2Survive for the last 3 years - and for many years to come, I hope, I can tell you being part of this event as a donor, volunteer or rider is like nothing else I've ever done. As Albert Pine said, "Immortality lies not in the things you leave behind, but in the people your life has touched" Believe me, Ride2Survive will touch your life...and the lives of so many.

  2. @Graham. Awesome. I wish you all the best with your fundraising efforts!

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