July 30, 2018

Asking Friends to Give Without Generating Quid Pro Quo Obligations

Two women reading booksWhen I was a college freshman, I lived in an all-female dorm. That year, Hollywood released the movie 10. The storyline revolved around a man in the midst of a mid-life crisis. He meets a woman, played by Bo Derek, whom he ranks physically, as an eleven.

Inspired, Stowe B, the most notorious male dorm on campus began grading women walking by their center-quad living room window. Using a poster board and a huge font, they ranked an occasional woman a ten or an eleven.

Then, Stowe B’s “typical antics” turned cruel. They graded every woman from zero to eleven, creating a collective me-too experience.

“This needs to stop.” My roommate announced. Everyone at the lunch table in our dorm agreed.

But how? We collectively agreed that they would “kill us.” Even though this was an exaggeration, we knew any protest would extract long-term revenge. It would be a quid pro quo.

We wanted to act, but we were afraid.

The Fear of Asking Your Friends to Give

Perhaps you feel the same fear about making asking a business partner or professional acquaintance to consider supporting a nonprofit. You fear future “payback.” You’re concerned about whether you can afford to return a future unknown favor. Do you worry what you do if a colleague asks you to support a cause you dislike?

You want to act, but you’re afraid.

Our Me-Too Solution, “How’s the View Now Stowe B?”

In the privacy of our dorm room, my roommate and I hatched a plan. We carefully reviewed the details and then, swearing them to secrecy, enlisted two accomplices.

We set our alarm for 3 a.m. Dressed in black, we snuck thru the empty quad. In silent trepidation, we approached Stowe B’s front window. Then is flurry, with black tempera, we slathered the window from corner to corner, bottom to top.

The results were beautiful. They couldn’t see out. We couldn’t see them.

The next day, Stowe B was outraged. They cursed. They swore revenge. They threatened death, but they never found out who painted their window black.

Even better? It worked. Stowe B moved on to other shenanigans.

Your Solution to Quid Pro Quo Nonprofit Exchanges

You might, do as we did, and give the name of friends and colleagues to a nonprofit you love anonymously. However, that’s not the point of the story. The point is to suggest that even though we were scared, we crafted a way to achieve our objective.

Your solution around any quid pro quo fears, likewise, is to insist on and help to create compelling opportunities (See Why is Corporate Social Responsibility Important?) This allows you, instead of trading favors, to provide super value that delivers business, nonprofit, and community benefits to your friends and colleagues.

Your Challenge

When you’re asked to invite others to participate in a nonprofit, do some analysis. Is the offer compelling? If not, work with the nonprofit to create remarkable value that you delight in sharing. (For some ideas, read Unexpected Opportunities: Sponsorships Activities You Might Not Have Considered.)


Karen Eber Davis

Karen Eber Davis provides customized advising and coaching around nonprofit strategy and board development. People leaders hire her to bring clarity to sticky situations, break through barriers that seem insurmountable, and align people for better futures. She is the author of 7 Nonprofit Income Streams and Let's Raise Nonprofit Millions Together.


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