The Planned Giving Blogger

The art and science of planned giving.

Posts Tagged ‘Persuasion

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

The power of persuasion. Tip #1

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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