For this year’s appeal, are you shooting from the hip?
Going from your gut?
Simply repeating what was done last year?
That may or may not be a good idea. It’s a little risky to take a stab in the dark. Or throw spaghetti against the wall.
It might stick, and draw your donors in, but…
What if there was a more scientific approach?
In my last article I shared five strategies informed by neuroscience, psychology and behavioral science research to help you be more strategic with your messaging to donors.
Today I’d like to add five more. Don’t worry you’re being manipulative. There are ethical ways to apply these principles. In fact, using them likely will help bring donors more joy, meaning and purpose than if you just threw pasta at them!
Ready for some ideas that might not be intuitive?
1. Make Their Brain Light Up Instantly
People are wired for instant gratification.And pleasure. And as true as that ever was, it’s even more so today in the digitally revolutionized age we’re in. If you don’t get folks attention right away (as in the first two seconds) you won’t get it at all. Also if you make folks wait for something, they are likely to get antsy. This will likely not be beneficial to you. Rather, you want to encourage people to feel immediate satisfaction with their interactions with you.
ACTION: Ask your donor for a gift with clarity and specificity. MRI research shows the human brain is wired for generosity. Even contemplating making a gift gives people a shot of dopamine that goes straight to the pleasure center of their brain. If you don’t ask, you don’t offer them this “warm glow” opportunity. And if you don’t ask with specificity (amount and purpose) it’s too vague for them to give due consideration. Stop thinking asking is taking something. It’s actually giving something — the chance to experience joy.
ACTION: Flip the switch on the mid-brain activity that makes us so prone to buy. Use words like you’ll receive a report back from us “Immediately” or your tickets will be “instantly” reserved. Words like your donation will be put to use “quickly” can also inspire action.
ACTION: When your donor makes a gift, send them a prompt thank you. Strive for no more than a 48-hour turnaround. This lets your donor know (1) you received the gift, and (2) you deliver on your promises. It enables them to trust you. And trust is a necessary precondition to establishing a lasting relationship. Need help? Grab my 48 Hours: Your Donor Acknowledgement Solution Kit.
ACTION: When your donor takes any asked-for action, acknowledge their contribution. There’s little point in being active on social media – asking supporters to retweet your posts, put things up on their Facebook page, pin things to their Pinterest board, and so forth – unless you’re going to respond in kind. Socially. Thank them for what they did. Respond to their comment. Follow up with a report on the outcome of your survey, quiz or contest.
2. Make an Enemy
Research from social psychologist Henri Tajifel shows how human beings unite in loyalty to their “in group.” Of course, this requires that there be an “out group.” Hence, as an example, the Mac vs. PC ads. Nonprofit folk tend not to like to label others as “enemies,” so think of this as a branding exercise. You are different from your competition. Describe how this is so, and why it’s a good thing.
ACTION: Make a list of your top competitors for donations and consider how you are different from them. For example, Cancer A Charity is a direct service and support organization; they note that Cancer B Chairty only does research. They don’t help people directly. They don’t have boots on the ground. That’s why Cancer A Charity is a better choice. Cancer B Charity would flip this around to show supporters they are at the forefront of cutting edge research, while Charity A only provides band-aids. This becomes less about being mean-spirited and becomes more about labeling, as discussed in my most recent article.
ACTION: List the ideals and values for which you stand. Make those who stand for antagonistic ideology the “enemy.” This is an exercise in creating a “unique selling proposition” – which is as much about spelling out who you’re not as who you are. In essence, you “label” yourself as being about addressing root causes, not curing symptoms. Or being holistic, not focusing on just the patient but the entire family.
3. Stand for Something
You do need to spell out who you are too! One study found that of customers who expressed a strong relationship with a particular brand, 64% said it was because of the values they ascribed to that company. Values they shared. One example is Tom’s shoes. Their loyal customer base appreciates the fact that for every pair of Tom’s sold the company donates a pair to someone in need in an underdeveloped country. Figure out what your organization stands for; then… sell it!
ACTION: Embrace your role as a salesperson. Your entire job as a development professional is to express your values; uncover folks who share those values, and then facilitate an exchange that enables donors to act on their values – which happen to match yours. Fundamentally, fundraising is a value-for-value exchange. Selling (the very definition of which is to exchange or deliver for money or its equivalent) is something you’re constantly doing. A donor gives something of value (money or an in-kind good or service) and the charity returns something of value to the donor. As Daniel Pink writes in To Sell Is Human “the ability to move others to exchange what they have for what we have is crucial to our survival and our happiness. It has helped our species evolve, lifted our living standards, and enhanced our daily lives. The capacity to sell isn’t some unnatural adaption to the merciless world of commerce. It is part of who we are.” Stop thinking of “selling” as an evil word.
4. Devil’s Advocate
According to research by social psychologist Charlan Nemeth and his colleagues, the role of devil’s advocate plays an important part in persuasion. The research shows that when people are confronted with someone who truly appears to oppose their position, they begin to try to understand the other person’s point of view.
ACTION: Make a list of the reasons donors have given you to not support your nonprofit; create an FAQ that addresses these hesitation head on. I used to do this as an insert with my annual fundraising appeal. It addressed such questions as “How much do you receive in umbrella funding?,” “What percentage of my gift goes to overhead?,” “Do we really have poor people living in our community?” and “Aren’t many homeless by choice?” The interesting part about playing the devil’s advocate is not so much that it dismisses a few donors’ apprehensions with answers (which it can do), but that it solidifies the fervor with which your current donors support you. By bringing up (and subsequently dismissing) reasons for hesitation, donors become much more confident in their level of comfort in supporting your cause. This can result in more passionate future gifts.
5. Keep Donors On Their Toes
Do this a lot! This strategy relates to the top reason customers become repeat customers — the social construct of reciprocity. Even better, research shows the act of surprise reciprocity is supremely powerful. Psychologist Norbert Schwarz found in a 1987 study it doesn’t take much to start the process of reciprocity; even the smallest of favors allow goodwill to be bought with customers, increasing loyalty and retention. In fact, in another study by Robert Cialdini, author of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, he noted subjects were prone to rate others as much more likable when they had simply bought them a can of soda.
ACTION: If you want gifts you must give them. Create positive “wow” moments to delight your supporters. Thank them more than once, and more than one way. Send little greetings. Make thank you phone calls. Offer token gifts of appreciation. Acknowledge folks publicly; praise grows in a group setting. Don’t just do the traditional donor honor roll listings. Connect with donors on social media; fan, follow, and favorite them. Show you care about them for who they are — people with vision, courage, compassion, generosity and values you share — not just for their money.
Keep More Donors. Give Them What They Need.
Get the Donor Retention and Gratitude Playbook with 6 separate companion guides (at a bargain if you buy the bundle)! Or you can purchase them individually. Taken together, they are a complete Donor Retention ‘Bible’ — everything you need to raise more money by keeping your current donors and increasing their average gift! It’s filled with hands-on, practical information garnered from my 30+ years working in the nonprofit trenches. Plus you’ll get lost of ideas I’ve borrowed from brilliant clients over the past ten years.
This is jam-packed with useful stuff, and I know you’ll love it. As with all Clairification products, it comes with a 30-day, no-questions-asked, 100% refund guarantee. You can’t lose.
Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash