I have a little extra tip for you this month because I recently learned of some interesting research related to framing your appeal differently, depending on whether you’re reaching out to new or ongoing donors.

The experimental research was done by Dr. Ayelet Fishbach, and you can listen to her speak about it here.

What you’ll learn may surprise you!

It’s related to two different psychological triggers: social proof vs. fear of loss.

The Power of Social Proof with New Donors

When people know nothing or very little about you, they look to others for help with their decisionmaking process. If someone else says you’re great, this is super helpful. If someone else says “I donated to this cause,” others feel comfortable following their lead.

It’s the old “monkey see, monkey do.” If you’ve never purchased the new baby toy you’re considering, it helps to hear what others have to say about it. If they like it, you know the glass is half-full at least. It’s not a total loser. This helps you get over any hesitation you may have about joining in and jumping on this bandwagon.

However, if you’ve purchased the toy numerous times as a gift, you don’t need others’ counsel. You’ll follow your own.

The Power of Fear of Loss with Ongoing Donors

For people who already like you, know you and are committed to you, social proof is unnecessary. These folks are already at least at the glass half-full marker. So what might persuade them to buy, or give, again? In this case, the researchers found it’s fear of what will be missing if they don’t join in.

The afore-mentioned experiment involved a fundraising campaign in South Korea. They started collecting public donations when halfway through the campaign. They told half the people they had half the money raised, and the other half they were missing half the money.

They found current donors to the organization were more motivated by thinking about what was still needed (i.e., the glass is half-empty). They wanted to step up because they could envision what would be lost if they did not do so. New donors, who’d never before contributed, were more likely to give when told other people were giving (i.e., the glass is half-full). The other way to frame this is:
    1. Ongoing donors want to prevent the ship from sinking.
    2. New donors want to get on board a ship on rising tides.

Framing Influences Donor Motivation​

Your key to success is donor segmentation. At the very least, tweak your appeals depending on whether you’re sending to prospective donors or current ones. You have to meet people where they are.
    • If they’re not yet donors, they’re going to need more persuasion than not. This is why donor acquisition letters are often four pages. It takes a while to explain your case for support.
    • If they’re already donors, it’s important for you to recognize this. These folks don’t need as much explanation. In fact, they don’t want it. It makes them feel like you don’t know them.
    • If they’re major donors, it’s super critical you show them you know them. Generally, they prefer personal outreach before you even send a letter. Make them feel important, and they’ll be more likely to want to do something important. Like, perhaps, helping you by taking the lead in raising the unraised portion of your fundraising goal.

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