Anthropology… That sounds familiar, doesn’t it? It’s likely you’ve heard talk of anthropology bounced around the marketing world, perhaps you studied it at university, or maybe you enjoy keeping up to date on Edmonds’ latest research on race and plastic surgery in Brazil. Or maybe that’s just me.

Regardless of how, or whether, you’ve heard of anthropology, now is the time to switch up those research methods you’ve been using and take a leaf out of anthropology’s book. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you’re probably missing out on something great. Don’t worry. We’re here to help.

A wonderful part of GOOD Agency thinking about supporters is that it goes beyond the confines of demographics. We know that people don’t fit into boxes (and we’re glad they don’t, because that would make for a boring world). That’s why we care about people’s values and behaviours. We understand diversity. We want to keep learning about your supporters.

You’re probably thinking this all sounds good, but what does it have to do with anthropology and more importantly what does this have to do with me? Well, a lot. We want to draw on anthropological research methods like ethnography to go even further in understanding your supporters and by doing so we’ll be able to reach wider audiences and build fundraising income.

This means getting out there. It’s about experiencing their worlds as they experience them. We’ve seen the impact this can have. A GOOD Agency Planner went collecting during Christian Aid Week only to be met by concerned neighbours’ faces when they opened their doors exclaiming, “Oh no! Is Mary dead?”. It goes to show, people love Mary, their elderly neighbour who knocks on their door year on year. This ‘on-the-ground’ experience affirmed our campaign concept that centred around the idea of loving every neighbour, and it worked.

Charities are in a unique position, because of their huge volunteer bases. This is a whole pool of people who need to be utilised more. They provide a great entry into the world of a charity’s supporters. So, what are we waiting for? It’s time to put ourselves in the shoes of supporters and future supporters. If they love salsa dancing, let’s try salsa dancing. Interact with people. Learn about people. All the information is out there, it’s just about finding it. It’s about becoming fully immersed.

Our clients often ask for focus groups and surveys. These can be great, but the beauty of anthropology is that it’s not in a staged environment. There’s real value in that. People don’t hold back like they might in a focus group. Those shy attendees could have a key insight, but get drowned out by the loud, opinionated person in the group. I’m talking about taking it that step further and really getting involved. Don’t get me wrong, these people aren’t the broad supporter base we’re looking to reach, but they know their stuff. As Mary’s neighbours taught us, there is a massive amount of value that comes from what anthropologist Clifford Geertz would call ‘deep hanging out’.

That’s not all. I’ve been focusing on understanding existing charity supporters, but it’s important to look wider than that. It’s a cliché, but the world is our oyster. We want to know about how people are relating to businesses and charities alike, whether they even know which brand they’re giving to or if it’s just about catching someone’s eye in the right place at the right time. Getting into their worlds gives us unique insight into giving behaviours, that really could make all the difference.

It certainly seems like anthropology could and should start making some serious waves. We’re ready, are you?

Time to get to that salsa class.