Use Behavioral Science to Positively Frame Year-End Philanthropy
|Basic: donors deserve a warm hug|
I LOVE this post! I agree with every one of these six fundamentals, and they are great reminders for us all. Distilled to their essence, they are:
4. Stories, stories, stories.
Let’s take a closer look.
HAPPINESS: We’re in the happiness business. Giving makes people feel joy – the act of contributing to charity activates the pleasure centers of people’s brains. Remember: we’re not in the business of taking away money, we’re in the business of giving joy. What a great job we have.
Katya is correct! There’s been a lot of research into the psychology of giving and it all boils down to this: we’re wired to be empathic. Our donors want to love others; similarly, they want to feel good about their gift of love. Psychologist John Marshall Roberts, speaking at Tedx New Zealand, goes so far as to say: Empathy is perhaps the foremost survival skill of the current age.We can nurture donors’ empathic instincts and give them this gift of love – which is at the heart of philanthropy.
AUDIENCE: It’s not about us, it’s about our audience. This insight may be marketing 101, but it’s also gold.
Gold it is! Truly, the gold standard is the old “WIIFM” (What’s In It For Me?). Take a look at your last fundraising appeal… your e-newsletter… your annual report. How many times do you use the words “I” and “we” and “our” instead of “you” and “your”? Would it be clear to the reader what’s in it for them? Or does it just seem like they’ll be helping you to reach a fundraising goal or balance your budget? Donor-centered fundraising is not about money or product features. You aren’t selling soap or anything else that’s tangible. So you’ve got to offer an inspiringemotional/psychological kick-back.
HEARTFELT: Feeling first, facts later. There are no exceptions to the rule that we must awaken the heart to arouse the mind.
People give from the heart! When we’re in the emotional/psychological kick-back space it’s all about tugging at heartstrings. And this isn’t manipulative; it’s about giving people what they want. It’s when we try to persuade people about something they don’twant that we enter manipulation territory (you know, trying to scare someone into buying tickets to the fireman’s ball because they fear their house may otherwise burn down).
STORIES, STORIES, STORIES: Nothing beats a good story about one person.
No exceptions! We’re all story people. In 1980, Richard Nisbett and two fellow psychologists conducted a study to see if a single, vivid story (i.e., a very small sample) would more powerfully affect test subjects than authoritative data on the same topic. As Paul Slovic and his colleagues would find two decades later, in a famous experiment about “the identifiable victim effect,” narrative beat the numbers every time. In that study, those who received a fact-based appeal from Save the Children donated $1.14. Those who read a story about an individual child in need donated an average of $2.38, more than twice as much.
MESSENGERS: We can have a stellar message, but if you have the wrong messenger, it won’t matter. We’re in an era where faith in traditional spokespeople and marketers is at a historic low, and so people are turning to trusted friends, family, independent authorities and peers for their recommendations. That means we’re best off with messengers other than ourselves.
Use your influencers! Too often we wait until the last minute to decide who’ll sign our fundraising appeal or from whom our e-appeal will come. These things should not be afterthoughts. New research shows just how much the messenger matters. Peer-to-peer fundraising works because the askers are not paid to ask. Letters from clients are more influential than letters from you. I know you know these things. Act on your knowledge.
GENEROSITY: Generosity inspires generosity… It’s not what I need, it’s what I provide. I’m in the business of giving, not extracting… I’ll care about relationships, not transactions.
Give at the office! All of us, and that means your donor, yearn for that one moment when we’re bigger and better than ourselves. Where we soar. Where we step outside our daily, mundane lives and exceed our wildest expectations. Our job as fundraisers and nonprofit professionals is to help our donors see the way to greatness. We have to be partners with our donors. It may sound nutty to some, but our responsibility as development professionals is to care about our donors and be generous with them. We’ve got to put them first. That’s the only way to build genuine relationships. We can’t be detached. If it’s just a job to you, maybe you’re in the wrong place.