Ask strings and $100: It’s all about the Benjamins, maybe

I, like many, am currently obsessed with Hamilton despite the minor handicap of not having seen it or likely being able to see it in the near future.  (Not shockingly, the idea of someone writing like they’re running out of time appeals to me.)  But the Founding Father most relevant to our work is still likely Ben Franklin.

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Do not reproduce.

In nonprofit work, we tend to view the $100 level as a bit magical.  Once someone makes the psychological jump to three figures, they are likely weighing the effectiveness of your nonprofit and not just the emotion.  Additionally, when someone is giving in the same number of digits, it’s easier to upgrade.  That is, the jump from $100 to $200 seems easier for donors to make than $50 to $100, even though it’s more money to increase.  And $100 donors in acquisition are instant candidates for high-touch treatment, as they are showing significant support of your organization from the start.

There’s a lesser known place where $100 is magic: in your ask string.

Reiley and Samek did a study in which they tried two different ask strings). The first was $35, $50, $75, $95, $250, and other.  The second was the same as the first, but with $100 swapped in for the $95.

Revenue per solicitation went up 29%.  Average gift went up almost 20% and response rate went up 7.6%.  Let me repeat that: the ask string with the higher gift amount in it also had a higher response rate.  This is a rare thing.

The major reason for this, they hypothesize (and I agree), is fluency.  As I wrote in the piece on word choice:

People tend to prefer things, people, objects, etc. that are easy for them to understand. (study here). This is known as the fluency bias. There’s a reason that only eight names cover more than half of our presidents (James, John, William, George, Thomas, Andrew, and Franklin (which used to be a lot more popular than it is now)). Names that are more common help people rise faster in occupations. Believe it or not, stocks that have ticker symbols that can be pronounced as words outperform stocks that can’t be.

So, you would think logically that $100 isn’t the only fluent number.  And you would be right.  Another study looked at whether people were more likely to give $20 or a strange amount like $20.03 (if they graduated from the college in question in 2003).  People were less likely to give the strange amount (although this was not statistically significant at the .05 level).

So remember to create round numbers in your ask strings unless you have a really good reason to: the ease of recognizing and using these amounts will benefit your organization and get you more of those elusive Benjamins.

When you can, see if you can get the $100 into your ask string.  It increases your response rate with no loss in average gifts.  Wins like that don’t come along every day.


 

I’m working on a book on ask strings.  My goal is to make it free to subscribers of my newsletter here.  So if a round-up of the science and psychology of donation amounts sounds interesting, please sign up today.

PPS. Tomorrow would also be fine, as I won’t be done with the book tomorrow, but that lacks urgency, don’t you think?

 

 

Ask strings and $100: It’s all about the Benjamins, maybe

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