Why on earth would a rational person give money to charity–particularly a charity that supports strangers? What do they get?
In fact, every time someone donates to a good cause, they're buying a story, a story that's worth more than the amount they donated.
It might be the story of doing the right thing, or fitting in, or pleasing a friend or honoring a memory, but the story has value. It might be the story that you, and you alone are able to make this difference, or perhaps it's the story of using leverage to change the world. For many, it's the story of what it means to be part of a community.
The fundraiser, then, isn't taking, she's giving. She's giving someone the chance to buy a story that's worth far more than it costs.
Stories are the way we navigate our world, our chance to make sense of who we are and what we do.
Introducing tote bags or charity auctions muddies the waters, gets us thinking about the value of that thing we bought, not the story itself.
If people aren't donating to your cause, it's because you're not telling a story, or telling the wrong story to the wrong people (in the wrong way). Non-profits make change, and the way they do this is by letting us tell ourselves stories that nurture our best selves.