Creative Hack #2: Now vs Later


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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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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Big Tent or Three-Legged Stool?

14-01-06_graphicSo much trade journalism in direct marketing fundraising today, including the blogosphere, deals with the collection, organization, and analysis of “big” donor data, specifically, behavioral data.

It seems everywhere we look, data frames the conversation, and understandably so. Some have called data the tent-pole of our industry, the single support upon which all successful donor acquisition, retention, and fundraising rely.

Sadly, there is comparatively little coverage on how to use that information, passionate odes to “storytelling” notwithstanding. Translating that data into messages (and yes, stories) that resonate with donors, and compel them to act, is a subject about which is hard to find articulation.

But without that articulation, hoping that data alone solves the problems is a little like selling someone on a new HD TV by describing only how the plasma display technology works, yet never showing him the picture quality it produces. Continue reading

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.

To Catch the Best Creative, Fish Upstream

13.11.18_graphic“The creatives around here never bring anything new to the table. They simply take orders.”

“The account teams around here don’t respect creative. We’re simply order-takers.”

Often, these sentiments exist within the same organizational culture. In fact, where one sentiment exists, it’s almost axiomatic that you’ll hear the other. And that’s a shame.

Across many years of a career in creative consultation to direct response marketing, I have occasionally been asked to “fix the creative situation.” That sounds onerous, and sometimes it is. Like a big ship, the cultural inertia of an organization requires enormous effort to turn. Culture drives the daily perspective of every employee, and Continue reading