AHHHH, 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 →
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.”
My 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.
When 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:
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.
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.
A old friend of mine who works at a Catholic charity shared a letter he received from a donor several weeks ago. It read, in part:
“Last year I sent out letters to about 12 charities that I gave $50.00 or more to, and requested they acknowledge my letter regarding not sending any mail during the year with cards, crosses, statues, holy pictures and other little gifts I could not use.
“All of you replied you would do that for me. I only wanted one receipt for the donation I gave once a year, [and] nothing more, as I was getting tons of stuff that I could not keep and also cost you guys money anyway.
“Well ‘YOU ARE THE WINNER’, they kept sending me things all year. Since you did not, [you] get a donation of $600.00.”
Lessons learned? Respect your donors’ wishes, listen to what they are saying, and act accordingly to satisfy them.