This week, we’ll talk about some framing that can help increase your donations or your likelihood of getting donations.
Some examples we’ve already covered:
- Framing your gift against a hedonic good works. That is, you can increase giving just by saying things like “that’s less than the cost of a Starbucks venti coffee.”
- Referring to something as a “small” fee can make people more likely to pay that fee.
- Framing gifts in the context of social norms and social proof (e.g., circling a gift and letting people know that’s the average gift for the campaign) can increase the average gift significantly.
- Anchoring is just a pretty pretty frame you put around your desire to get larger gifts.
- People are more likely to give to prevent losses than secure gains.
The first one we’ll discuss this week is giving your potential donors freedom and agency. It’s great in large part because it has a meta-analysis* behind it.
You can set up this freedom with a phrase as simple as “…but you are free to say no.” Psychologists have a few different theories as to why this works. One hypothesis asserts that as humans we crave control. When someone asks us to do something (and, let’s face it, in a lot of our nonprofit communications, we lay the “why” on thick, as we should), we believe they are working to control us. Refusal, then, is a reassertion of control.
Another hypothesis asserts that by telling someone that they are free not to do something, it feels as though we are giving them something. Reciprocity influence then demands that the donor give something in return.
I think it’s probably part of both of these, combined with a little bit of the unspoken “…but what type of person would you be?” at the end of the free to say no line. Regardless of the exact mechanism, this technique has been shown to:
- Increase donations face-to-face from 10% to 47.5% (study here)
- Increase face-to-face surveys completion from 76% to 90% (study here)
- Combine well with foot-in-the-door techniques (study here)
And that meta-analysis says that the technique is effective across a variety of platforms. However, it did find that the effectiveness was slightly less in non-face-to-face ask situations; it also found that it is better if the thing you are asking a person to do (or not to do — it’s up to them!) is immediate.
So this is a technique you can add to your copy to increase donations. If you’ve tested this, I’d love it if you can let us know your experience in the comments or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, if you enjoyed this, you may enjoy our weekly newsletter that covers topics like this in more detail. But, of course, you are free to say no…
* A meta-analysis is research-speak for “we’re going to read all of the studies and summarize them for you in one paper.” Think of it as the Cliff Notes if Cliff weren’t lazy and condensed all of Shakespeare down to one volume.