Fundraising tips from the scientists of persuasion

If you haven’t read Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to be Persuasive, by Noah J. Goldstein, PhD et. al. run and get a copy (or request it from your local library).

This nifty little book provides useful insights from research that the authors and others have done to understand how people respond to attempts to persuade them. In some of the findings you’ll find validation for practices you already have in place. In others, you might be surprised to find that something you might think is persuasive may actually have the opposite effect.

There are insights here for everyone in your organization – from program staff to fundraisers and managers. For example, researchers found that:

  • Attaching a handwritten post-it note increased responses to having surveys returned — the researchers noted that the more personalized you make a request, the more likely you’ll get agreement.

  • Fear alone can be paralyzing, but motivating when offered a way to overcome it.

  • Asking people to write down their commitments and how they will realize them raises the likelihood that they will follow through.
  • The desire to reciprocate an unconditional and no-strings action is a better motivator over the long term than the offer of an incentive.

  • Adding a “because” phrase to your request — with a good rationale–  will increase the likelihood of a yes response.
  • Asking for even just a little lifts overall response, and doesn’t seem to diminish giving levels.

Some ideas:

  • I’m sure you’ve already tried adding handwritten sticky notes on your appeals or event invites.
  • Don’t just try to scare people about the dangers of their behaviors, give them a realistic way to take corrective action.
  • You might want to reinstate those board member contracts or commitment statements that you’ve stopped using —  and make them part of a one-on-one discussion.
  • Try using a strong because statement on your reply card to reinforce your donor’s reason for giving: e.g. Yes, I’ll help because I care about ….
  • Don’t forget to add something like the phrase  — every penny (every dollar) will help – into your appeals.

Have you tested these approaches? How did they work for you?

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