Mars, Venus, and social proof

Here at Direct to Donor, we have a tradition – every 100th post anniversary, we take a look back at some past posts and update them with new information.  “Tradition” may be a bit strong, since we will hit 200 posts this week, but we’re working on it.

Back in February, we took a look at how women and men donate differently.  TL; DR?  Women generally donate more and more often.  Women respond best to social proof, clear injustice, and efficacy appeals; aligned self-interest worked best for men and worst for women.

However, there is a new study that may shed different light on the gender* dynamics of social proof.  In the original study, here’s the phrase researchers used to try to get men and women to donate in the social proof condition:

“When you give to CRP, you join your fellow citizens in helping to fight poverty. The poor are now being helped by record numbers of charitable givers across the country. You can join the movement to eliminate poverty with your contribution to CRP.”

As you can see, this doesn’t mention a specific amount – the social proof comes in the decision to donate, rather than the amount to donate.  The researchers in this case found that women donated more often to this type of appeal.

The reason I go through this set up is that there is also a study out that indicates something different.  This study from Croson, Handy, and Shang looked at a radio station call-in scenario.  Subjects were told, after making a $25 gift, that someone else had just donated either $10 or $50.

Croson and Shang have looked at this type of data in the past (here and here), finding that this type of social pressure/pull can significantly increase the amount given by a person.

Here, they asked subjects how much they think and average station listener would contribute and how much they would contribute in the next year.

It turns out that social norms did influence contributions, but almost entirely from men.  So men were more likely to use this social information to inform the amount they gave.

So, these sound like two opposing studies – one indicating that social norms work better on women; the other indicating they work better on men.

However, I think there is a way to reconcile these results.  It would appear that social norms – how a community is banding together to help fight poverty – are more influential for women than men when it comes to deciding whether to make a donation.  However, when the time comes to actually make the donation, women will keep their own counsel about how much to give more than men, who are more influenced by outside views.

This is an interesting area of research; I hope we can get research that is able to show a clearer direction.  In the meantime, I would keep appealing to men and men alone with enlightened self-interest and use social proofing as a strategy to anchor men to higher gift amounts.

 

* Technically, it’s sex dynamics, since the study appears to have looked only at a male-female dichotomy, but “Sex Dynamics” sounds like a book you would get on Kindle so no one would see you looking at the cover.

Mars, Venus, and social proof

Learning from political fundraising: dance with the one that brung you

There’s a saying in politics to dance with the one who brung ya codified in Chris Matthews’ classic book of political wisdom called Hardball; “Dance with the One that Brung Ya” is the title of the fourth chapter.  In it, he talks about how Ronald Reagan went to speak at CPAC and gave interviews to conservative papers as a way of remembering from whence he came (and Matthews notices that he got into trouble during Iran-Contra in part because he was dancing with Iran rather than his supporters).

This came to mind for me when I saw a study from Fluent about the makeup of political email lists.

It turns out that while AOL.com email address make up only 4% of political email subscribers, they make up 22% of online political donations.  They are literally over five times more profitable than the average email address.  Gmail addresses are the reverse: they make up 48% of political email addresses, but make up 13% of online political donations.

political donations

You’ve probably seen the jokes about AOL.com email addresses.  If you haven’t, here’s one from the great online cartoonist The Oatmeal.

The addresses have the reputation for representing those who are very out of date or stuck in their ways or (gasp) older.  In fact, the first audience that AOL lists on its advertising list is 50+.  They are the very definition of online uncool and looked down upon by your Web designer who, to stereotype a bit, is likely much younger.

But older donors are the ones that brung ya, and continue to bring ya.  In this extreme case, the 4% of political email addresses that are from AOL are worth (in donations, at least) significantly more than the 48% of political email subscribers that are from Gmail.  For more evidence of this, take a look at why focusing on Millennials at the expense of those who got you where you are is a recipe for disaster

This is even true online.  Those over 60 are just as likely to donor online as those under 40, according to Dunham + Company, and their average gifts tend to be higher.

So how do you cater to the people who are most profitable online?

Test fonts: With an older demographic, font size and clarity are key indicators of success.   While your younger Web designer may be able to read at nine points, your audience may not be able to.  This has a secondary benefit of helping people access and read your sites on mobile devices.  Different sizes work better for different audiences, so test out your site. 

Targeted messaging: Don’t want to pay for a data append to your file, but still want to talk to people about planned giving opportunities?  You could probably do worse than target AOL.com email addresses with this messaging.

Targeted advertising: Often, you only know the basics about a person.  But as long as you have their zip code, you can customize their ask string based on this information.  Just like you could, in theory, target increased asks to AOL addresses because of higher-than-average gifts, there’s also no reason to treat 90210 as the same as 48208 in Detroit.  Yet we persist in having a site with one ask on it at a time.

Offline/online integration: Chances are that you already have these older high-value donors on your file — just not on your email file yet. That’s why it’s important to e-append your offline donor file, as well as asking your offline donors to join your email list. How better to dance with the ones who brung ya than focusing on your longest term donors?

Learning from political fundraising: dance with the one that brung you

Men donate from Mars; Women donate from Venus

I recently spent a solid week trying to dispel the notion that Millennials are the most unique possible of all generations and, in fact, the idea of generational dynamics entirely.  Millennials are people and should treated like people, no better, no worse.

Since then, the Detroit News and San Diego Magazine have both done canonization pieces about Millennials and charitable giving.  I have tried not to roll my eyes, but I have not succeeded.

One of the many points in those blogs that almost any other point of demographic differentiation is better than generation for determining people’s viewpoints.

So today, I’d like to look at sex differences in giving.  To give credit where credit is due, Indiana University / Purdue University Indianapolis has a wonderful initiative called the Women’s Philanthropy Institute.  They have done a lot of the research into this; my job here is largely to present it and to try really hard not to mess it up.

On that positive note, here are some of the differences (the studies behind these are all found here):

  • Women give more to charities than men and specifically single women give significantly more than single men.
  • That said, marriage significantly increases giving of both men and women.
  • Women tend to give more to women’s issues, human rights, and environmental causes.  Men give more to issues around security, the economy, and sports.
  • Interestingly, these differences subside as women and men get wealthier, with their tastes merging a bit more.   A potential hypothesis is that larger gifts from wealthier people also tend to me more the product of familial consultation.  Thus, it may be a more literal merging of tastes.
  • Men tend to give to fewer charities; women tend to spread out their giving more.
  • Women are more likely to volunteer and more likely to donate to the organization they are involved with as a volunteer.
  • There is little difference in bequest giving patterns.

But you want to know what will cause men to give and what will cause women to give.  Well, I won’t disappoint.

A Social Science Research study  found that men have lower empathy scores when not watching Glory, Brian’s Song, Rudy, or Field of Dreams. (They omit this last part, but it’s implied.)  Given this, they looked to see if there was a way to get them to donate (noting that emotional appeals were not working as well).

The researchers tried four frames:

  • Social proof: “When you give to CRP, you join your fellow citizens in helping to fight poverty. The poor are now being helped by record numbers of charitable givers across the country. You can join the movement to eliminate poverty with your contribution to CRP.”
  • Efficacy: “When you give to CRP, your donation counts. Multiple external audits confirm that more than 98% of donations to CRP go on to directly benefit the poor. You can be assured CRP will put your contribution to work by using your donation to fight poverty effectively.”
  • Clear injustice: “When you give to CRP, you help fight the injustice of poverty today. Of the millions of people who fall below the poverty line, many of them were born into poverty and never had the opportunities that other Americans did. You can help address the injustice of poverty through your donation to CRP.”
  • Aligned self-interest: “When you give to CRP, your donation addresses a problem that hurts us all. Research shows that poverty weighs down our interconnected economy, leading to greater government spending, and exacerbating many social problems like crime. You can benefit everyone, and help make the economy strong and productive for us all through your donation to CRP.”

The aligned self-interest framing worked significantly better than the others with men.  However, this was also the worst performing with women.

So, to oversimplify, the traditional emotional appeal works best with women and appealing to “what’s in it for me” works best with men.

Has anyone has experience with testing this type of messaging?  Would love to hear your experience in the comments or at nick@directtodonor.com.

Men donate from Mars; Women donate from Venus

The legitimate non-profit trends that Millennials are a part of, but don’t define

Yes, it’s a long title, but I promised nuance.

The most compelling part of the case for Millennials focus is time.  Existing donors are aging to a point when for various reasons they are no longer able to give.  I’ve argued this isn’t a Millennial thing, except insofar as they are the more extreme (so far) leaders of some important trends in nonprofit marketing.  The big ones:

Addressable media.  I remember when I saw my first cost-per-click advertising campaign.  The heavens opened and a choir of angels came down and sang “Behold! You shall not pay to advertise to nonresponders ever again!”

Time may have caused me to exaggerate this slightly, but there simply was no reason to advertise online in CPM form again.

Addressable media will make a similar sea change.  Now, there need only be four types of people you pay to advertise to online:

  • Those who are interested in your particular offering as evidenced by their searches.
  • Those who have expressed an interest in your Web site by coming and perhaps taking an action you are interested in.
  • A custom audience of people you define.
  • People who model similarly to the people above.

You’ve heard about how people seek out news that agrees with whatever viewpoints they have.  We are going to come to an age when you are going to have ads that are similar — your ads will be targeted to things the Al Gore rhythms know you want.

And as an advertiser, you need to coordinate these with your other direct marketing activities, as this will go from novel to expected to required faster than you think.

Personalization.  Millennials especially, but really all of us, are becoming more and more immune to broad brush approaches (hence why addressable media are important).  This is why books like The Cluetrain Manifesto and Permission Marketing sound current and relevant now even though they were written 15-plus years ago.

With the multiplication of media, we are simply not going to have time to pay attention to things that don’t pay attention to use.  That used to mean getting your name right instead of saying Dear Occupant.  However, as my personal law dictates, it’s going to be more and more important to know more and play back what you know about a person.  To learn more about personalization techniques, try this.   In particular, playing back people’s connection to the cause is important.

Impact. It’s often said that Millennials want to see what their gift does.  Doesn’t everyone? People want to see that they are making a difference.  Not that your organization is making a difference, but that they are making a difference.  The best thing that you can do is tell them the story of that difference related to the why that makes them give.

quote-and-it-s-a-human-need-to-be-told-stories-the-more-we-re-governed-by-idiots-and-have-alan-rickman-24-51-27

Requiescat in pace

Content marketing.  In the NonProfit Pro piece, I also said that “Content marketing was highly effective before it was Content Marketing and will continue to be effective long after it becomes lower case again.”  I would work to debunk the hype around that this is a new idea, but the podcast This Old Marketing does a better job than I ever could, showing content marketing schemes that go back to Poor Richard’s Almanack and before.  I’d also love to explain what content marketing is in simple words, free from hype, but Sorry for Marketing did it better than I ever could as well.  And it’s funny; here’s a sample image of the Jargon Monster:

jargonmonsterNote that Millennials is one of those jargon words…

So I’ll simply add that bringing people in through content not only acquires new constituents; it helps you learn about what those specific constituents want so you can deliver it.  

Mobile.  If you aren’t optimizing for mobile already, do so.  It’s now, for many if not most, the primary way that people are looking at your Web site, donation form, content marketing, etc.

Cultivation — valuing people over institution and connections over transaction.  FOTB (Friend of the Blog) Angela Struebing did a nice 2016 intro here talking about getting to real donorcentricity and talking about impact, rather than our usual talking about programs and studies and such.

But this is frequently talked about in the context of Millennials — they want a relationship, not a transaction; they want to fund causes and impacts, not organizations.  Like so many things, this isn’t just Millennial phenomenon, but something we will have to wrestle will from now until I don’t know when.

So, in summary, when someone says they want to target Millennials, start by trying to improve your messaging to humans.  I assure you, regardless of what you read to the contrary, Millennials are human.

The legitimate non-profit trends that Millennials are a part of, but don’t define

Nessies, Bigfeet, and Large Numbers of Millennial Donors

First, thank you to the Golden Globes for honoring my blog post about correlation not equalling causation featuring Matt Damon as Best Blog Post Comedy.

This week, I’m going into detail on my thought from my NonProfit Pro piece that said

We should regard a nonprofit that courts a Millennial audience at the expense of their core like the person who dyes their hair and takes off their ring to hit on people at a college bar: unfaithful to those who love them, uncomfortable with who they are, and ill-equipped to succeed even if success were desirable.

Let me first say that if your nonprofit wants to be around for the long-term, you will have to address younger people.

Because birth, death, and math.

And as we’ve said that past few days, you shouldn’t not target Millennials.  There really is no such generation and, even if you are looking just at the age group, there are enough intragenerational variations that there will be quality prospects in any age group.

My argument is just you can probably ignore all of the “how to talk to Millennials” think pieces you have seen and will see, and refocus on telling your nonprofit’s story well to individuals who will react well to it.

The maxim that we should be following is his:

willie_sutton

That’s Willie Sutton and he allegedly said, when asked why he robbed banks, that it’s where the money is.

The height of Millennial absurdity, expressed to me by an otherwise sensical colleague, was the argument that we needed a Millennial-focused planned giving strategy.

So where is the money?  Blackbaud’s The Next Generation of American Giving says it’s:

  • 43% Baby Boomers
  • 26% Maturers (or Civics)
  • 20% Gen X
  • 10% Gen Y

As Blackbaud summarizes “In short, the odds are strong that for the vast majority of causes, your next donor will be over age 50.”

And that donor will be more profitable.  The average gift from a Boomer or a Mature is$454 and $478 respectively.  For Gen Y, it’s $272.

I know, I talked big against Blackbaud sometimes, but they really do good reports.  This one is here and I’m sorry you will have to give them your email to get it, but it’s worth it.

So, in summary:

  • Millennials often don’t have the unique attributes often attributed to them.
  • In fact, the whole generation system is pretty flawed.
  • They are not one coherent group available for targeting; in fact, other attributes like race and gender are far more predictive.
  • Even if they were available for targeting, they aren’t worth targeting for donations right now.

And here I said this was going to be a more nuanced look.

However, we did see that there were some things that are changing over time.  While these are commonly attributed to Millennials, they are likely trends that will change the way we do direct marketing over the long term.  That’s what I’ll take on tomorrow.

 

Nessies, Bigfeet, and Large Numbers of Millennial Donors

The intragenerational dynamics of Millennials

Monday and yesterday, I argued that many of the so-called Millennial attributes aren’t unique to Millennials and, in fact, that the dynamics among generations are overblown.

I should stipulate here that it seems obvious that people who have significant events at formative times in their lives may have similar reactions.  Those who lived through the Great Depression were more likely to save as a result.  Similarly, many from this generation don’t like to have extended long-distance phone calls because they used to be very expensive.

Ironically, for me, it’s this belief in formative events that makes me less likely to buy into generational dynamics.  It seems odd to me that for whom 9/11 happened while in college will likely think the same way about security issues on average than someone for whom 9/11 happened while in utero.  Further, to say that their reactions would be preordained seems even more implausible.

All of this could be excused, perhaps, if it led to a usable schema.  After all, if something works in practice but not in theory, it simply begs for better theory.

However, looking at Millennials and saying they act one way or the other as a group is not reliable.  In fact, it would likely be better to look at any other factor than age to get an idea of a person.

This sounds controversial, but let’s take this chart as an example.  While a sdt-next-america-03-07-2014-0-13simple example, President Obama’s appeal among younger voters was a significant part of the narrative in the 2008 election.  

As you can see, white Millennial’s approval rating of President Obama is between white Gen Xers and white Boomers.  Non-white Millennial approval is slightly higher than non-white Boomers, but within the margin of error.

So if you wanted to predict whether someone supports President Obama, it would be far more instructive to know someone’s race than their age.  Or, put another way, a 25-year-old white person is more likely to be like a 65-year-old white person than a 25-year-old non-white person.

Let’s look at more actionable variables for us as direct marketers.  One thing we do know for sure is that Millennials own social media, right?

Right?

Sort of.  They use social media more than other age groups.  However, 11% have no Facebook accounts and 27% use it less than once per week.  And that’s the most used social network.

And, not a surprise, it’s not the same by sex:

sillsgraphic1 Hat tip here 

And there’s significant age variation within Millennials.  About a quarter (27%) of 31-35 year olds use Snapchat, compared with almost two-thirds (65%) of 21-25 year olds.  I should mention that some of the more enlightened generational theorists of my acquaintance talk about how people on the border of generational categories are tweeners and these are spectra, rather than hard dividing lines.  This warms my heart in part because I’m an Xer and my wife is a Millennial despite only a two-year age gap.

This is something for-profit marketers have caught on to.  The Hotwire PR study of communications trends proclaimed the end of trying to talk to Millennials as a monolithic group and more toward addressable media and direct marketing (including print!) to address as individuals.

So the big question I would have is why would you want a strategy for Millennials, when you could have strategies to acquire online advocates as warm leads, renew lapsed donors, and everything else that is actually related to your organization.  I think you’ll find that your walkers look very much like your walkers, your advocates like your advocates, and so on, than your Millennials like your Millennials.

This brings up another question: is it worthwhile to target far younger constituents as a way to get gifts?  My answer is no, with caveats, and I’ll hit the details tomorrow.

Agree?  Disagree?  Let me know in the comments.

The intragenerational dynamics of Millennials

Mythbusting the millennial mythos

Yesterday, I ranted a bit about the intellectual lassitude of people who talk about the unique attributes of millennials.  Let’s put some of these to the test.

First, a background on where the idea of generations comes from.  Authors William Strauss and Neil Howe created the Strauss-Howe generational theory — that every 20 or so years, there is a new generation.  They further posit that there are four generational patterns in rotation: prophets, nomads, heroes, and artists.  So, for example, according to them, the Silent Generation are prophets, the idealists that helped create the post-war establishments that Baby Boomers, as nomads, rebelled against.  Gen Xers are the heroes, who grow up increasingly protected, but mature into self-reliance.  Millennials are artists, who “grow up overprotected by adults preoccupied with the crisis, come of age as the sensitive young adults of a post-crisis world.”

Of course, it won’t surprise you if you read yesterday’s post that I am switching these around.  According to Strauss and Howe, Silent Generation members are artists, Baby Boomers are prophets, Gen Xers are nomads, and Millennials are prophets.  

In the end, the whole thing reads like the Chinese zodiac readings on a restaurant placemat: vague enough to apply to anything or to nothing.  The generational theory is non-falsifiable.  There are no hypotheses to test.  And thus, there is no science behind it and thus belief in the system is as valid as Roswell or Bigfoot.

In fact, the writing often (to me) smacks of what is called a Jacques statement in cold reading (aka faking that you are psychic).  The Jacques statement is named for the character who gives the Seven Ages of Man speech in “As You Like It”; it means tailoring your prediction to the age of the subject.  Take a look at the very very different things that happen to each generation as they get older:

  • Prophet: “tend to be remembered for their coming-of-age passion and their principled elder stewardship”
  • Nomad: “tend to be remembered for their rising-adult years of hell-raising and for their midlife years of hands-on, get-it-done leadership”
  • Hero: “tend to be remembered for their collective coming-of-age triumphs and their hubristic elder achievements”
  • Artist: “tend to be remembered for their quiet years of rising adulthood and their midlife years of flexible, consensus-building leadership”

Thus, other than the artist, everything rebels when they are young.  And everyone matures when they get older.  These are the alleged “differences” among the generations.

Additionally, in the generational dynamics world, the future is already written.  By definition, a baby born today is a hero and their child will be a prophet.  I don’t have a scientific basis for this, but I find this level of determinism unsettling, especially when there isn’t a compelling reason to believe in it.

So those are the underpinnings of the theory, such as they are.  Now let’s look at some of the more commonly asserted attributes of Millennials.  In order to be a truly Millennial trait, it would have to be something that does not happen to every generation that is this age (because then you can target all 20-somethings similarly across time without generational embroidery or Jacques statements) and something that does not continue over time (because that’s a trend and not a generational commonality.

Take, for example, the technological savvy of the Millennial generation.  All of the data do point toward greater use of social media, greater use of the Internet, greater mobile use, etc.  But this trend seems to be going in one direction: up.  Not only are all age groups showing greater adaptation among all age groups, but there is no sign that the 15 and under set (the to-be-named generation after the Millennials) will not be even more digitally native than Millennials.  For me, then, the statement “Millennials are the most tech savvy generation” has the same meaning as “the youngest adults are Millennials” — something that will eventually be supplanted (perhaps by the Singularity).

Other general trends that you may have heard of as uniquely Millennial:

  • Millennials are the most educated generation.  Same thing as with technology: why would this trend stop with Millennials?
  • Millennials prefer cities to suburbs.  Actually, a 25-30-year-old today is less likely to live in a city today than one in 2000.  This is something that is unique to young people, not to Millennials. 
  • Millennials job hop.  FiveThirtyEight myth busted this one for me here.   Young worker job switching is actually down from both one and two decades ago.
  • Millennials want to see the impacts of their gifts.  Do you think this is not common among other age groups?
  • Millennials want a trophy for every little thing they do.  IBM did a good study of generations in the workplace here.  It found that Millennials were only slightly more likely than Gen Xers to want recognition from their boss and less likely than Baby Boomers to want their views solicited by their boss.  Gen Xers, not Millennials, were the most likely to think that everyone on a team should be recognized.
  • Millennials are uniquely socially conscious.  That same study found that Millennials were less likely than their Gen X and Boomer counterparts to want to leave a job to follow their heart or save the world.  Oxford Economics found the same thing here; only a fifth of Millennials said making a difference is important to their job satisfaction.

So this debunks some of the more common attributes that Millennials are commonly cited to have.  

But this would be all academic if there were a good way to create messages that worked for Millennials generally.  Unfortunately, there isn’t, because of significant intra-generational differences.  We’ll discuss that tomorrow.

Agree?  Disagree?  Let me know in the comments.

Mythbusting the millennial mythos