Five Appeal Boosting Behavioural Fundraising Principles

At On Agency, we take a behavioural approach to fundraising. By embedding behavioural economics into our work we help clients smash their targets. Here are five ways you can apply behavioural fundraising in your organisation:

  1. Who is the best person to deliver this message? The voice of a carefully-crafted letter can have a real impact on our judgements. In some circumstances, the use of an authority figure can add gravitas and trust in what we are saying. Cialdini’s Authority Principle states that we are more likely to follow the lead of a credible expert. The CEO, a researcher, or even volunteers on the ground, can all be effective authority figures. In other situations, the Liking Principle can be more informative to signatories. The principle states that we are more likely to respond to people that are similar to ourselves. So, using a fellow supporter as a signatory can sometimes be an effective way to increase response rate.
  2. Can you set a time frame? For charities, all donations are meaningful. In an ideal world, we would encourage people to respond to an appeal in their own time. But in reality, as good as people’s intentions may be, people can forget to donate if there is no impetus. We can introduce impetus by adding time frames to communications. This leverages the Scarcity Principle by showing the importance of responding quickly to the supporter.
  3. Would an engagement device suit the pack? A well-placed engagement device helps to build a supporter’s connection with a cause and organisation. The device works especially well if it encourages people to think about why they support the charity. This helps to bolster the Confirmation Bias – our desire to look for reasons and interpret information in a way that confirms our pre-existing behaviour. So, asking people to send back their top reason for supporting will make them feel more confident in their donation, making it more likely they will give again in the future. In the same vein, this is why asking an ex-supporter their reasons for stopping their support can be counterproductive.
  4. What are the best ask prompts? The Anchoring Principle demonstrates that the first number people see often influences the decision made, which in this case is the donation amount. This places a lot of importance on the first ask prompt of a pack; too high and people can think giving any lower will not make a difference, but too low can lead to people only giving small amounts and therefore misses the potential of an otherwise great, creative appeal. We use data to find the right ask structure for individuals, as a spot-on prompt will help a charity to reach its fundraising target whilst making supporters feel great that their donation is making a real difference.
  5. How can you use personalisation to your advantage? The Consistency Principle shows that using personalisation to remind people of their past behaviour, can reaffirm an individual’s identity as a supporter. Furthermore, the Social Proof Principle shows that other people’s behaviour has influence on our own actions. This influence is particularly strong when we perceive others to be similar to ourselves. Therefore, using personalisation to emphasise the number of similar people who have supported can increase the likelihood of donation. Many organisations we work with do this by highlighting the number of supporters in the local area. Effectively saying ‘lots of people have supported this campaign already, so why not join them?’

While it’s not right to make use of too many principles or heuristics at once, leveraging one or two can be particularly effective. Our belief in behavioural fundraising has even had an impact on our office décor. On the wall of our Planning and Data cave, we have a wheel of over one hundred cognitive biases and heuristics. Each gives insight into how people really behave, rather than how we like to think we behave.

On Agency now runs a behavioural fundraising masterclass that outlines Cialdini’s six principles of influence and how they apply to fundraising. If you’re interested in finding out more info on the masterclass or behavioural fundraising in general you can contact us on 01273 208311.

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