ICYMI: Understanding Brain Triggers And Giving

July 7, 2016       Geoffrey W. Peters      

Restaurants have been removing the currency symbol from their menus because the research showed that this produced more orders of more expensive menu items. The concept is finally being tested in the nonprofit sector.

A test segment of 25,000 house file names (not high dollar names) had the dollar signs removed from the ask amounts on the reply form and in the letter. This technique was designed to remove the rational “protect my pocket” mode donors go into when they see a dollar sign. By removing that dollar sign, the hypothesis was that the gift amount is seen as more reasonable and is not as intimidating. This small change increased response rate by 3 percent, gross income by 7 percent and net income by almost $5,000 on a mere 25,000 pieces.

This is being retested in larger quantities to both low and high dollar names but it shows that some of the learning from neuromarketing can be applied to fundraising. So, let’s look at some other ideas based on commercial research.

* When calling on a major donor prospect it is wise to bring a warm cup of coffee, tea or hot chocolate along with a biscuit or candy and to sit to the right of the prospect. Why? A warm beverage causes the prospect to view you as a warm person. The concept of reciprocity suggests that a gift should be reciprocated by a gift from the prospective donor.

Speaking to the right ear is speaking to the emotional rather than rational brain hemisphere and is more likely to evoke the desired response, particularly if the solicitation involves storytelling or emotion.

* How important is a smile when interacting with major donor prospects?
Even a 16 millisecond subliminal image of a smile (or a frown) will
affect how much people would pay for a drink or caused an unconscious shift in the emotional state of the subjects. Donors read body language even if sub-consciously or unconsciously.

* Commercial research shows that flattery (even flattery that was perceived as insincere) had a positive influence on outcomes. Flattery that was perceived as accurate had an even stronger positive influence.
For major donor fundraisers, compliment the prospect. Try to find something that is accurate and factual.
For direct marketers, compliment the prospect for their perspicacity in being a
member of a group, even if it only a group of prior donors.

* Is art only in the eye of the beholder? Can we apply science to evaluating art? The “golden ratio” of 1:1.618 produces a more pleasing result to the human brain. This is also true in science, math and biology. Mathematicians refer to this as phi or the ratio between number pairs in the Fibonacci sequence. Biologists see this in the proportions in Nautilus shells and leaves.

Think about this when designing mailings and web sites. Different areas of the brain (the insula) light up when the ratio is followed vs. when it is not. This area is also related to emotion.

Fundraisers strive to be “eye-catching” yet don’t seem to know what that involves. Yet there are tools like heat mapping to see where the eye goes when looking at a website or a letter and that information can be used in design and layout.

* The two visual features to which the brain pays the closest attention are faces and hands. Use them in photographs. Fully one-quarter of the human brain is devoted to translating images.

* Sadness, as an emotion, is not processed like pain. It can therefore be tremendously effective if you can help people make the journey from sadness to happiness or reward by their involvement or action.

* Researchers found a significant difference in willingness to negotiate to a compromise by those sitting in soft chairs vs. hard chairs. It’s the same result with being handed soft objects vs. hard objects.

* A very loud or a very soft voice with a quiet background gets more attention than a voice in a normal volume. Lower pitch is better than a higher pitch. Variability in pitch connotes passion. A faster tempo suggests competency but pauses (for effect) also provides variability, which connotes passion.

* When providing price points (“your $25 will feed this child for a week”) don’t round up to an even number. Research shows that even numbers aren’t viewed as credible. The statement: “your $24.78 will feed this child for a week” is viewed more credible because it is the actual number rather than rounding up as is so frequently done. The odds of the real number being even are infinitesimal.

* Buyers often avoid the “Cadillac” as well as the “Yugo.” Add a lower and very much higher (especially higher) price point in copy and ask strings to cause donor to “compromise” on a higher choice. Use circles on ask strings or other clues to help donors make choices thus reducing the complexity of their analysis.

* fMRI tests show how our brains process paper-based and digital marketing in different ways. Paper ads caused more emotional processing. A USPS study with Temple University showed subjects processed digital ads more quickly but had stronger emotional response to physical ads and remembered them better. Physical ads stimulated the part of the brain associated with value and desire for featured products.

* When providing a full-fledged proposal for a major gift, use heavier paper and a thick cover. It promotes the sense of gravitas and is viewed by recipients as more serious.

* Consumers were shown vivid high-imagery and low-imagery ads for a fictitious popcorn product. A third group was given an actual popcorn product. A week later they were surveyed.

Members of the group who viewed the more vivid ad were as likely to report having tried the product as the group that actually consumed the samples. Those in the low imagery group were less likely to report trying the product or reported less favorable opinions about it. Consider the art that you present and ask how impactful it is.

* Placing the following statement at the end of a commercial ad caused trust scores to jump as much as 33%: “You can trust us to do the job for you.” The statement alone caused increased scores in areas of fair pricing, caring, fair treatment, quality, and competency.

If one of the most important brand values for charities is trust, how often do we use tag lines on logos or other non-mission related cues that emphasize that value such as:
* Do we offer a money-back guarantee?
* Do we use tag lines like “A charity you can trust”?
* Do we use third-party endorsements that would enhance credibility?

Neurofundraising isn’t a cure for bad fundraising. You still need to be smart and to test. But neurofundraising might be of great help in understanding the nuances of donor decision making and therefore of great help in deciding what to test and how.
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Geoffrey W. Peters is CEO of Moore DM Group and will be speaking about neurofundraising at the upcoming Bridge Conference in Washington, D.C. His email is gpeters@mooredmgroup.com