The Donor is in the Details

Donor behaviour

Last month the International Social Marketing Association hosted a webinar about the common ground between social marketing and donor behaviour. The webinar was presented by Lucia Barros, a Brazilian researcher, who drew some interesting parallels between motivating behaviour change, and motivating donations of time or money to a worthy cause.

Barros categorized donor behaviour as private (e.g., a fundraising letter you receive in the mail) or public (e.g., social media, charity auction). In both cases, there are benefits of giving and costs of not giving that might motivate the donor as follows:

Private behaviour, benefits of giving – This is self-signaling, where the donation is made in order to feel good or happy. There is no peer pressure at work here, just internal motivation to feel good. For example: “Give a scarf, get a smile.” “Vote and feel good.”

Private behaviour, costs of not giving – This is self-pressure, where the donation is made in order to avoid guilt. Barros noted that the ask must hit a ‘sweet spot’ of guilt. Too little guilt and the recipient doesn’t feel sufficiently needed; too much guilt and the recipient feels manipulated. A message that elicits the reaction, “I’ll feel bad if I don’t help” is just the right amount.  For example: “This child needs your help.”

Public behaviour, benefits of giving – This is social signaling, where the donation is made in order to be seen by others as altruistic, indicate wealth and status, or obtain social rewards. For example: shaving heads for cancer; the Alzheimer’s Ice Bucket Challenge.

Public behaviour, costs of not giving – This is social pressure, where the donation is made in order to avoid shame or embarrassment. For example: passing the donation basket at church.

Barros also looked at other behaviour change factors and their influence on donor behaviour, including:

i) role of solicitation – not surprisingly, people give as a response to being asked

ii) default effect – when you default the desired choice, fewer people will give but they will give more. For example, a fundraising card might offer a choice between giving $25, $50, or $100, with the $50 option highlighted in yellow. 

iii) every penny helps – if even a little bit helps, more people will give, but they will give less. Any donation enhances their mood, and reduces their guilt.

iv) identifiable victim – people will donate more to a single victim whose story is told than they will to groups of victims.

v) ask for time from people who are engaged with the subject matter; ask for money from people who are less engaged.

Want to apply some of these principles to your own communications? Redbird can help! Give us a call or drop us a line.