The Planned Giving Blogger

The art and science of planned giving.

The power of persuasion. Tip #1

with one comment

A number of years ago I attended a fabulous presentation by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., sponsored by the Stanford Social Innovation Review.  Cialdini’s research on ethical influence has important implications for fundraisers and I still keep a little laminated pocket guide with his principles of ethical persuasion in my wallet.  One of the key principles is what Cialdini calls “consistency.”  He means that once people make a choice or take a stand there is pressure to behave consistently with that commitment.

When I work with clients to launch a planned giving program, I try to help them identify key Board members (or the Chair of the Development Committee, if there is one) who are willing to champion the effort.  I suggest to them that if, at the meeting where the planned giving program proposal is up for review, these Board members will publicly state their commitment to making a planned gift, it’s highly likely they will follow through and that others will follow their lead.  They’ve now made a public commitment to making a planned gift.  The principle of consistency dictates that they must keep that promise.

That commitment can then form the basis of a planned gift ask to the remainder of the Board.  Even if the Board is not a “give or get” Boardactually, especially if the Board is not a “give or get” Board, a planned gift is not due until death, so should be within each person’s power to commit.  And in this economic environment, a planned gift is a great option for donors unable to commit to a large outright gift.

The idea of “Consistency” is just one of several principles of ethical influence outlined in a wonderful article by Cialdini, entitled “The Power of Persuasion:  Putting the Science of Influence to Work in Fundraising.” The others are summarized in this chart. Ethical Influence Click here and look for the “Download This” section in the right navigation pane to download a copy of the full article.



Written by Phyllis Freedman

July 13, 2009 at 11:45 pm

One Response

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  1. I think that the gist of this approach is great, and public statements to make a legacy gift will reinforce intentions. However, while such a gift is “within each person’s power to commit” I would urge caution. Let’s not feed into the false expectation that the entire board will take action eventaully, or even a majority. Remember, many board members are on several boards over their lifetime, or even simultaneously. Others join because of an institutional commitment. The decision to include charity in an estate plan is not done lightly. Of course, there are exeptions and should we all be in that situation.

    Greg Lassonde

    July 15, 2009 at 10:02 pm

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