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 Fundraising 6-Pack: Architecture for Direct Response Appeals

blog_pic_1-24-16When writing fundraising appeals we’re often so focused on media, donor segment, communication channel, content, and offer that can we overlook the 6 essential architectural markers on which any effective appeal is built.

Regardless of media, technology, format or market segment, successful appeals usually hit the following 6 markers:

1. ENTER!
Get them in. Envelope teaser, banner head, email subject line…your donors will never respond if they never see your message to begin with. And to do that you have to get their attention.

2. GO!
Start them on their journey in the right direction. There is always a directional flow in great appeals, a clear starting line, heading to a clear finish line. Do your donors know where to start or are there competing elements in your appeal that are dividing their attention and perhaps sending them to an ask before your persuasive content is fully communicated? Pay attention to sequencing, order of insertion in direct mail and intermediate landing pages in digital as the donor journeys from the starting blocks to the finish line.

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It’s Time to Discard Emotional v. Rational

BlogPic_16-1-10For decades, the fundraising community has accepted the notion that the act of giving is an emotional behavior. Without doubt, there is solid scientific ground on which to build this foundational belief.

Fundraising campaigns are built around this assumption: “We have a serious problem we are trying to solve, and we believe we can move you to help us to solve it.”

And often the persuasion behind that emotional urge to give — the argument for giving to a specific organization, for instance — contains a very rational assumption: “Your gift to us represents your best investment for finding a solution.”

This duality inspires endless argument. What approach should we take when we speak to our donors in this campaign? Emotional or Rational? How much of each?

Accepting this notion at face value, however, is risky.

The Fundamental Error

Strategic fundraising campaigns run on the rails of an offer, driven by a singular case for giving. Often, fundraisers use the emotional/rational yardstick to create the messaging and positioning around the offer. But differentiating fundraising offers as emotional versus rational suggests that they exist in opposition to each other.

This, of course, is fundamentally illogical.

The opposite of emotional is unemotional. The opposite of rational is irrational.

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Seth Godin on the Decision to Give

13.11.18_graphicIn a thoughtful and typically articulate blog post, Seth Godin posits questions that donors should ask themselves when choosing to support a charity. They include a variety of specific, non-specific, emotional and rational topic points. In general, they describe a general decision tree for donor giving, whether conscious or unconscious.

Any nonprofit specialist who is concerned with donor acquisition, retention and engagement, would do well to post this list as a daily reminder that donor-centric engagement, not organization-centric promotion, lies at the heart of all we do.

Perhaps Godin’s most enlightening donor self-question is this:  What story do you tell yourself about you and your giving?

Creative strategists must never forget that prospects and donors tell a “giving story,” in which they, not their favored nonprofit organizations, are protagonists. The nonprofit’s achievements that their support helps to accomplish speak to a need in their own hearts, and do not in any way relate to an organizational vision or mission statement.