When it comes to donations, people are ruled by their hearts, not their heads. Whether you are mailing postcards or letters, blasting an email or developing a grassroots effort, here are some facts that every nonprofit should know.
1. People identify with individuals, not causes. Research shows that people are more likely to donate when they can identify with a single, identifiable beneficiary. You can talk about hunger affecting 15.3 million children in the United States, but people are more likely to donate if you include a picture of one hungry child staring into the camera. You can sound the alarm that 2.7 million pets are euthanized very year, but animal lovers are more likely to open their wallets if they see the soft brown eyes of a fox terrier poking its nose through the bars of a metal cage.
2. Donors respond to positive peer pressure. Donors give because it makes them feel good. They like knowing they are making a difference. Positive peer pressure can encourage them to dig even deeper. Studies have found that, if donors had planned on giving $25, if you tell them that their peers (neighbors, classmates, other animal lovers) are giving an average of $75 each, they are likely to rise to the occasion, or at least give more than they otherwise would.
Another way to use positive peer pressure is to add check boxes with predetermined gift levels. When people are presented with pre-set gift options of $25, $100, $500, or some other defined amount, they will often select a larger gift than if the request is open-ended.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask. People want to help, so don’t be afraid to put your “ask” front and center. Use brightly colored donation buttons. Put the appeal at the top, center, and bottom of the page. Make donations the central theme of the communication. Even if money is tight, it’s hard for people to say no to a request for emergency supplies for earthquake victims or fresh drinking water for villages in developing countries. Make it easy for them to give.
Whether by direct mail or email (or a combination of both), fundraising taps into the heart. Use pictures, get personal, and don’t be afraid to ask.