Fundraising & Behavioral Economics

April 6, 2015 at 11:18 am 1 comment

I will be writing a series of post in follow up and reflections from attending the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) International Conference.

In this post – an overview of the class I attended by Alan Hutson, Jr. and Bernard Ross on Behavioral Economics and how it applies to our fundraising, donors and success. The session was extrapolated from Daniel Kahneman’s book, Thinking Fast Slow. You can also read an post by Ross and Mahmoud here.

What was my takeaway from this class? Our fundraising and nonprofit writing, photos, websites, online communications need to be clearer, shorter, include photos and tell a story from beginning to end quickly, And this needs to be same when we are face to face with a donor. This is donor centricity on another level – we need to connect our donor to our brands and programs in the way they see it (not the way we want them to see it). Based on behavioral economics – the more choices consumers or donors have – the less likely they are to act. And it isn’t really about not acting – it’s about their POV and how our work and requests fit their schemata and points of reference.

Ross and Hutson proposed:

  • Thinking is mainly an association process
  • Subconscious drives move of our thinking
  • We see what we want to see
  • We see what fits into our schemata
  • Sensory transfer = Easy to read=Easy to do
  • We see things from our perspective
  • We don’t see what we’re not used to seeing
  • We like what we are used to and opt in unconsciously

The premise of their class was, as fundraisers we can change behavior without changing minds……

Limit donor choices to avoid confusion:

When given too many choices, shoppers buy less than when offered fewer choices. Applied to fundraising:

  • Offering too many donations amounts online leads to donor confusion. Offer at most three amounts AND pre-fill the giving box with the middle amount. Proven higher response AND gift amount.

Framing creates creates context and helps a donor make decisions easily:

  • Gift requests or donor actions are higher when the donor has context:
    • Our goal is $1M, we have already raised $500,000. We are asking you to join others by making an investment of $100,000 to insert mission/program based on donor interest.
    • Many of our donors have chosen to leave a bequest. You would be joining more than 1,000 people who have already done so and are a part of our legacy society.

A note about branding….Ross and Hutson presented us with MRI scans of two brains. One with the bright colors we expect of an active brain and the other with minimal colors. Which one do you think would be viewing a brand they know or like?

In class we all assumed it was the brightly colored brain scan….wrong….it is the calm brain. When viewing a brand you like you don’t think – you just do, buy, act, share. Fundraising implications:

  • We want and need donors to know and like us and our brand so much that giving, volunteering, acting, sharing is easy for them to do. We want them connected to our work, mission or programs as second nature.

They also talked about the “completion story” and how it makes people feel and act. As nonprofits and fundraisers we are storytellers – but telling a complete story will have a better response (whatever response you are seeking). And photos have a positive impact on this response by not requesting the viewer to think. For example:

  • In 2010 we started with 100 students who were reading below grade level and at risk of ending their education. Today the same students have graduated from high school and we have more than 500 students in the program. See what $100 per student per year can do for them and our community? Insert applicable photos.
  • Bernard shared two photos from UNICEF – An undernourished baby and same baby one week later. Caption, “See what one week of our nutritional supplements and your $10 can do?”
  • What’s your nonprofit completion story?


Entry filed under: AFPFC 2015, Fundraising, Nonprofit fundraising, Nonprofit Research. Tags: , , , .

The Veritus Group Donor Relations the Walt Disney Way – Wayne Olson

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Alexandra  |  April 6, 2015 at 11:41 am

    Nicely done! Thank you! Post this to the afpfc app too?


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