The Planned Giving Blogger

The art and science of planned giving.

Posts Tagged ‘Inside Influence

Planned giving marketing: harnessing the power of persuasion

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I’ve always been a fan of making articles about gift types and gift planning simple to understand and follow.  That extends to the format as well as the content.  For example, I’m a big believer in using 1., 2., 3., steps along with this numbering format.  For example, when explaining how a gift annuity works.

And, I’m passionate about making sure our communications with donors include prominent and frequent “calls to action.”  That is, asking the donor to take a step and even telling the donor exactly what we want him or her to do.  For example, in Q & A articles and fact sheets, I often conclude with the question “What should I do next?” to put the donor on the path to taking the action we most want taken.

Now comes a research study published in Inside Influence, the website/blog of Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., who has made ethical persuasion his life’s study.  I’ve written about other of Dr. Cialdini’s findings previously.  The most recent article, entitled “Planning Persuasion,” describes a study that showed, conclusively,  ” . . .that simply hearing “Yes” from another person is just a starting point, rather than an ending point, for persuasion. To optimize the likelihood that others will follow through with their intentions, consider specifically asking them how they plan to go about accomplishing the goal they’ve promised to pursue. This doesn’t need to be done in a micro-managing or demanding way. Rather, you could ask about the details as they relate to whether or not there are specific aspects of the tasks with which you can help.”

For articles in newsletters, cover letters and other printed materials we send donors, we can suggest the steps to the donor, for example for how to include our organization in their estate plan.  In conversations, especially when a donor says that he or she is intending to or considering including us, a conversation about “how” the donor plans to do that might prove fruitful.



Written by Phyllis Freedman

June 22, 2010 at 11:56 pm

Reach out and touch someone.

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As gift planners we’ve long understood that when we can get a donor to experience our work first-hand, their level of commitment increases along with their financial contributions.  Now, there is research that explains why and gives gift planners a tip to increase that commitment even if the donor cannot experience our work first-hand.

In the most recent issue of Inside Influence, the e-newletter of persuasion expert Robert Cialdini, Noah Goldstein, author of “Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways To Be Persuasive,” reports that consumer researchers have found that “physically touching a product might not exactly turn it into gold, but it does increase its perceived value.  Tactile contact leads to a greater sense of ownership of that product. The combination of the positive emotions and the enhanced sense of ownership lead to the increase in perceived value”

The authors understand that customers won’t always have the opportunity to touch the product (shopping on the internet being the biggest culprit). However, they found that “when a product was unavailable to touch, simply asking consumers to imagine touching it was enough to increase perceived ownership and value of the product.”

This helps explain the huge success of donor travel offered by nonprofits and the advantages of other opportunities to see (touch) the work, whether that is on a campus, in a remote part of the world or around the corner at the local food bank.  For donors who can’t or won’t engage to that degree, using words to make the work real is a step in the right direction.


Written by Phyllis Freedman

December 7, 2009 at 11:56 pm

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