The difference between voting and being a voter

It’s the difference between an act and an identity.  True, there are some acts that, once done, define your identity — eat one baby and don’t be surprised when people call you a baby eater for the rest of your days.

But if a parent tells their child about the magical guy who brings presents to good boys and girls, we don’t think of them as a liar.  So not all acts are defining.

And habitual activity isn’t enough either.  While we could consider ourselves breathers, eaters, sleepers, or many other similar identities, we don’t because it isn’t core to who we are.

Personally, I’m a voter.  I voted knowing in my brain of brains (as opposed to my heart of hearts) that it made no possible difference. Everyone I voted for will win or lose by a healthy margin, especially here in Tennessee. And even if my one vote could be the margin for victory, it wouldn’t be, with recounts and lawyers and such.

But still I voted because I believe 1) being a voter is good; 2) I am a good person; and therefore 3) I will be a voter.

It’s so much a part of my identity I would think differently (and worse) about myself if I didn’t.  And my wife and I rejoiced when our son’s first words out of bed today was “It’s Election Day!” in the same tone of voice one would use to announce that everyone in the audience is getting a car.

So voting is a necessary condition of being a voter, but it isn’t sufficient.

So too is it with donating versus being a donor.

There are people who give on the spur of the moment or because their emotions were touched for good or ill by something on the news.  That’s not a part of who they are — yet.  With work, we can hope to turn the person who donates into a donor.

The donor donates like I vote — as an expression of who they are to themselves and to the world.  That’s level one donor behavior.

Level two is when being a donor or member of your organization is a part of their very soul.  This is usually when their donor behavior is linked to another part of their identity.  Some examples of this from a University of Kent study on why people donate:

  • “My son had meningitis so I give to the Meningitis Trust.”
  • “My brother died of bowel cancer so I give to cancer research”
  • “My mother became disabled and needed wheelchairs and things like that, and I realised what a difference it made, so I’ve been keen to give to charities that provide wheelchairs in the third world’
  • “[My husband and I] work for the music business and so we support music charities and music causes”

The researchers found this was the biggest reason people give to a charity:

“[P]eople do not give to the most urgent needs, but rather they support causes that mean something to them. In particular, the study finds four non‑needs‑based criteria that commonly influence donors’ decision‑making:

Donors’ tastes, preferences and passions, acquired as a result of an individual’s social experiences. These motivate many giving decisions, even among donors who perceive themselves to be motivated by meeting needs…”

So the question today is who can you make into a voter.  The question every other day is who can you make a donor in general behavior and to you.  The world and your organization need both.

And please vote.  Both being a voter and the act of voting are powerful.  If a vote didn’t have power, people wouldn’t die for it.  And if a vote didn’t have power, people wouldn’t spend time and treasure to take it away.

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