by guest blogger George Crankovic
Fundraisers look at donors’ age, income, religious beliefs, past giving, and so on, to craft appeals. Now there’s one more element to add to the list, and this one could trump them all.
It’s your donors’ political leanings. Whether a donor is liberal or conservative will influence how she reacts to your messaging, according to a fascinating study titled
How Political Identity and Charity Positioning Increase Donations
Liberals tend to respond to themes focusing on:
- Caring, nurturing, and protecting the vulnerable
- Fairness, safeguarding rights, and justice
Conservatives, on the other hand, tend to be drawn more to themes conveying:
- Patriotism and self-sacrifice for the group
- Respect for authority and leadership
- Moral guidelines restricting behavior
Okay, here’s the quiz. The study describes an example in which donors are shown two descriptions of a nonprofit — Rebuilding American — and asked to decide whether they’d give.
Guess how donors responded to the following descriptions:
- In Description A, the charity talks about “the importance of a healthy home where families can live together” and goes on to explain that it provides “rehabilitation services to working families who are trying to develop themselves to follow American traditions and support their communities.”
- In Description B, the charity talks about how “every person deserves the protection of a home” and explains how the charity provides “free critical repairs to the homes of low income Americans as well as financial support to protect low income families who are susceptible to home loss. This ensures that every individual has the right to a home.”
Spoiler alert — here’s the answer.
Description A, with its mention of “working families,” “rehabilitation,” and “American traditions” appealed more to conservatives. You can see how it conveys the ideas of hard work, respect for authority, and discipline. Description B appealed to liberals. It talks about protecting vulnerable people “susceptible to home loss” because “every individual has the right to a home.”
This is powerful. The charity is the same — only the framing of the messaging varies, and that makes all the difference. Of course, reframing won’t convince a Tea Party conservative to support Planned Parenthood. But that’s not the point.
You want a closer connection with your donors. By considering where they are on the political spectrum and addressing their core beliefs you can synch with them at a deeper level of shared moral values. The result is greater loyalty and retention. Why not give it a try?
If you aren’t seeing big growth in online donations, it’s probably your own fault. Donors are going online, including a curious but very widespread practice of responding online to offline messages.
One of the most serious roadblocks to online revenue are poor-performing landing pages. Here’s some help on that front from Fired-Up Fundraising: Create a Donation Page that Rocks!
- Try it out yourself.
- Change the title of the page. (Make it a call to action.)
- Put a heart-touching picture on the page.
- Make the donate button larger with larger font.
- Tweak your monthly donation button.
- Create special donation landing pages.
- Suggest dollar amounts for specific projects.
- Don’t offer too many choices.
- Don’t add links to other pages.
- Go all out to thank your online donors.
To which I’d add: Remember, your online and offline messages are no longer two separate worlds. Get them in line with each other — look, feel, language, offer. Or you will lose a lot of that rich cross-channel giving that increases every day!
Here’s an ad for Save the Children UK that almost got it right:
Or watch it here on YouTube.
It aired on television.
What this video does right:
- Focus on real children. It doesn’t play the abstract symbol game, but shows the children in need that they’re hoping to motivate donors to help. (It’s sad that when nonprofit ads do this it’s notable.)
- Jarring, realistic imagery. Some of the images toward the end are frankly hard to look at. No pie-in-the-sky abstractions here. That’s how you get people to give.
What the video does wrong:
- Wastes time being clever. Nearly half of the meager 60 seconds is spent showing kids so close-up you can’t see the problem. They’re doing it for a reason — building to a clever reveal. Being clever is a waste of time. And it’s not motivating.
- Plays the numbers game. This is one of the most common of fundraising errors. Millions of children living in poverty is not a reason people respond. It’s a reason they don’t respond.
- No specific fundraising offer. Fundraising works when it’s about action. Specific action that your audience understands and can get excited about. They were probably banking on the strong awareness that Save the Children has. And that probably helps. But relying on your brand to reel in the donation is like expecting your car to fill itself with gas.
- Call to action is on-screen only four seconds. Effective direct-response would have it visible the whole time.
I’m not calling this video a Stupid Nonprofit Ad, though it has some of the characteristics of one. Let’s call it a worthy effort that succumbed to some of the temptations of glib agency style over fundraising substance.
Thanks to Osocio for the tip.
From Tom Ahern’s newsletter, a checklist you might want to give your boss or that meddling board member who’s bent on taking all the life out of your fundraising: Why does good direct mail sound so weird?
Here’s what I think may be the main point, the reason reviewers have a tendency to get things so terribly wrong:
We write (and review) these letters at 1 mph. Readers, though, read at 100 mph. Things that are said just once tend to be overlooked. When you read direct mail at 1 mph (listen up, reviewers!), it can sound choppy. That choppiness disappears at 100 mph.
In fact that “chop” is what makes it possible for people to understand what they’re reading at that speed. If you wrote in a way your reviewers found smooth and pleasing, you’d lose readers — and revenue.
Get Tom’s list and make your reviewers read it!
I hope you test your fundraising messages often. If you don’t, you’re flying blind. I also hope you test in ways that will yield meaningful learning.
Seth Godin recently commented on this important topic at Getting serious about experimentation.
The best experiments are experiments on purpose. They are done with rigor and intent. They are measured. They are designed to either fail or create an approach that can be scaled.
Always know what you intend to discover by a test. State a clear hypothesis. Know what will constitute success. Isolate variables, so if something goes right (or wrong), you’ll know what caused it.
Do that, and even failed experiment are valuable.