Monthly Sustainers vs. One-Time Donors? Finding Middle Ground

16-8-10_squareAHHHH, the sweet sounds of monthly sustainers. Committed and highly engaged monthly donors, whose gifts hit a nonprofit’s ledger with increasing regularity as more and more of them embrace autopay options.

No wonder nonprofits spend a lot of money and effort to acquire them; either directly from a prospect universe (often DRTV or face-to-face canvassing) or cultivated from qualified donor segments, which usually require a telemarketing component to close the deal.

In either case, it’s a labor-intensive, expensive exercise with a low conversion rate, but one that yields a high payoff.

Yet despite their potential, many monthly sustainer programs are intrinsically flawed: Continue reading

Creative Hack #2: Now vs Later

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It’s no secret we live in a society prone to instant gratification.

From a weekend binge-watch of Game of Thrones, to polishing off a whole pint of Rocky Road in one sitting, to impulsively tossing in that issue of People Magazine at the grocery store check-out, most folks naturally exhibit a preference toward short-term gain, even if they understand the pleasure experienced by delay might be greater. (Spreading one’s enjoyment of Game of Thrones over an entire season, for instance.)

Related to this phenomenon, losses are also experienced more strongly in the present. As a result, people tend to defer those losses into the future whenever possible, even if doing so might actually cost them more. One look at the credit card debt so many Americans carry confirm this fact. Pay for those noise-canceling headphones with plastic and start enjoying your music today, even though you’ll pay an exorbitant 22% annual interest rate for that pleasure.

How can this basic human behavior drive the act of giving in different ways?

One well-known international child relief organization tested this condition directly to their monthly donors in Sweden. As part of a routine fundraising campaign, the donors were contacted by telephone and asked to increase their donation.

A total of 1134 donors were contacted and were randomly split into two groups. The first group was asked whether they would like to increase their monthly donation today while the second group was asked whether they would agree now to increase their donation in two months. In both groups, credit card or EFT authorization was taken today.

The results were dramatic.

NowLaterGraphAnna Breman, 2009. Give more tomorrow: Two field experiments on altruism and intertemporal choice.

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Creative Hack #1: Set Completion

Blogpic_4-6-16 Imagine sitting down at your desk one Monday morning and finding an untouched Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle waiting for you. A deadline looms. Although you have no time or intention to muddle through it, you do notice one clue for a 3-letter word: “NFL star Manning.”

But it’s a busy day and you feel no compulsion to attack the puzzle, so you simply smile, set the puzzle aside and move on with your day, without bothering to fill in the easy answer with “Eli.”

Now imagine the same scenario, but this time the entire puzzle has been completed—every answer to every clue —EXCEPT the 3-letter answer for “NFL Star Manning.”

If you feel compelled to pick up a pencil and complete the puzzle in this situation, despite the looming deadline, you have taken a very human action that human behavior scientists refer to as set completion.

“Finishing tasks that are incomplete gives us all a huge sense of satisfaction,” says Dr. Kiki Koutmeridou, Behavioral Science Strategist for DonorVoice. “Framing items as parts of a whole unit elicits a desire for completion and encourages effort and motivation, even in the absence of external rewards.”

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Nonprofit Fundraising vs Nonprofit Brand: The Great Divide

blog_pic_2-15-16_squareMy first boss, a respected if not legendary direct mail fundraiser in the political arena, once told me that it is far easier to raise money against a perceived evil than it is to raise it for a perceived good.

The recognized emotional “drivers” of effective direct response fundraising copy (attributed to Bob Hacker and Axel Andersson) are fear, greed, guilt, exclusivity, anger, salvation, and flattery. Most good copywriters, especially in fundraising, lean heavily on these emotions to drive response, and strive to place the donor at the center of the appeal.

The notion that donor action is more easily triggered against an evil suggests that, of these drivers, fear, guilt, and anger are frequently more useful tools for fundraisers to stoke the emotional fire in their readers’ hearts. Admittedly this sometimes paints a grim but motivating picture of the challenge.

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The Great Fundraising Mandala

blog_pic_2-3-16_squareThe dynamics of successful direct response fundraising has been described as a three-legged stool: Strategy (analytics) drives Creative (tactics) drives Performance (data), from which Strategy generates analytics. That brings us back to the first leg of the stool.

Remove one leg from the relationship and the stool falls over. Simple.

But there is an inherent weakness in the simplicity of this construct. It leaves out the most integral component, namely the donor. More specific, his or her attitudinal and behavioral fabric.

After all, donors react emotionally and rationally — or not — to the strategically considered, tactically rendered communication sitting before them. That’s the reality behind “Performance,”  and it directly influences the direction of subsequent strategies and tactics.

Perhaps better to visualize the fundraising dynamics as a wheel, or, because of the cyclical, concentric, and interdependent nature of its components, a mandala (to borrow from Eastern philosophies.)

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