Why People Don’t Do Things: Part 4

Why People Don’t Do Things: Part 4

Woohoo! We made it to the grand finale!

So far we’ve covered these 3 big-picture reasons why people don’t do things:

Because it’s easier not to

Because they can’t

Because we made it too difficult to do


And now, the fourth reason why people don’t do things…

They don’t “get” why they should

Our audiences receive hundreds of messages from cause-based organizations asking them to take better care of their own health, their finances, their families, their community and their environment.

On top of that, they receive messages from international organizations asking them to support people, animals and places far away from them.

Getting bombarded with all these messages creates a natural cynicism. An understandable stance of “why should I?”

And it’s often coupled with skepticism on whether or not doing something will really make a difference for the cause.

To move people away from “why should I?” and towards “I can and I will”, we need to offer them a series of compelling reasons why it’s worth their time and energy.


It’s our job to provide the “why”

I want to be clear on this point: providing “compelling reasons” does NOT mean inundating them with facts! Our field has been relying on facts for decades and it’s not getting us far enough, fast enough.

I’m not going to write too much about how to provide the “why” here, because I really want you to watch the below video instead.

It’s an assessment of a Sierra Club direct mail piece I received and I believe it’s worth your time to watch the whole thing (note: that’s obviously not an unbiased statement).

In this video, I describe several tactics Sierra Club uses to provide compelling reasons why their audience should protect the honeybees. Such as:

  • Creating a sense of belonging.
  • Making the donation feel like it’s not a big trade-off.
  • Increasing belief and empowerment that their support can make a difference.
  • Providing freebies that prompt “giving back”.
  • Making the action easy to do.

Yet, this same direct mail piece also went seriously off the rails and ended up completely de-motivating the audience by ending on doom & gloom messages.

Which makes this marketing piece a great example for showcasing how it IS possible to excite and motivate our audiences.

While also reminding us that when we include the wrong kinds of reasons in our messages, then our audience won’t do the things we’re asking them to do.


What’s next?

This concludes the four-part series on why people don’t do things. Thank you for joining me on this exploration of psychological and physical barriers, programmatic and messaging fails, and opportunities to do better.

If you want to dig deeper into this topic, plus learn how to use communication & outreach techniques to motivate action, then join my online course on creating conservation movements.