The Planned Giving Blogger

The art and science of planned giving.

Power of persuasion. Tip #2

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A recent issue of Inside Influence, the e-newsletter of Dr. Robert Cialdini, expert on ethical influence and the power of persuasion, included some interesting new research that can be of use to fundraisers.  In fact, it might explain the results of the annuity postcard test I reported about previously.

The article explains that new research has altered how we should think about communications designed to persuade.  Historically, the focus has been on the message itself, it’s clarity, structure, and logic.  Now, a new cognitive response model suggests that the message is not what is responsible for any change in behavior.  Instead, what matters is the “self-talk” that occurs as a result of the message.  What that means is that people don’t remember the message as much as they remember the messages they said to themselves after reading or hearing the message.  So, when you’re crafting your message you should think about what your recipient might be thinking in response, both positive and negative.

So, how do we promote positive self-talk and counter the negative?  On the positive side, Cialdini suggests tying your message to PR that might be happening in the public domain.  Those public messages can reinforce your own.  For countering negative self-talk, Cialdini suggests quoting trusted experts.  This is where the annuity postcard example comes in.  Quoting trusted experts may be the reason that version of the postcard got a better response than the postcard featuring the annuity rate table.  It may also help to explain the success of peer-to-peer fundraising, whether it’s done face-to-face or via web tools.  Implicit in the “ask” of a peer is endorsement by a trusted friend.

How else might this insight be used to improve planned giving marketing results?  Here are two ideas:

(1)  More use of Q & A and FAQs in newsletter articles and other communication.  The questions themselves can be keyed to what we expect the negative self-talk might be and the answers can counter those concerns.

(2) Articles in your newsletter authored by a noted estate planning attorney.  Most articles now are published without attribution but perhaps putting key information in the words of a trusted expertand giving a brief bio of the expert to establish her credentials might work.

I’m sure there are other good ideas out there.  Care to share?


P.S.  Thanks to readers for alerting me to a broken link for the download in my last stewardship post.  If you had trouble downloading the chapter from Julie Emlen’s book, the link is working now.


Written by Phyllis Freedman

August 3, 2009 at 11:50 pm

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