Understanding What Makes Donors React

Looking into a crystal ball or consulting a psychic won’t tell you who’s going to be your next major donor (probably). Neuromarketing can give you an inside look as to what is happening inside your donors’ minds and how to get the next big gift.

Neuromarketing studies the cognitive and affective response of consumers’ to marketing materials. It can easily and successfully be applied to fundraising in the nonprofit sector. Some ideas based on commercial research that can be applied to fundraising are:

  • When calling on a major prospective donor, bring them a warm cup of coffee, tea, or hot chocolate along with a biscuit or candy. A warm beverage causes the prospect to view you as a warm person and the concept of reciprocity also suggests that a gift should be reciprocated by a gift from the prospective donor.
  • Commercial research shows that flattery (even flattery perceived as being insincere) had a positive influence on outcomes. Flattery perceived as being accurate had an even stronger positive influence. Compliment prospects on things that are ideally accurate and factual.
  • Sadness, as an emotion, is not processed like pain. This can be effective if you can assist donors in making the journey from sadness to happiness or reward their involvement and action.
  • When providing price points, don’t round up to a whole number. Research shows that whole numbers aren’t viewed as credible. Providing the number $24.78 versus $25 is seen as more credible because it is the actual number rather than rounding up.
  • fMRI tests show that there is a higher amount of emotional processing in paper ads versus digital ads.
  • Placing the following statement at the end of a commercial caused trust scores to jump as much as 33 percent: “You can trust us to do the job for you.”

Neurofundraising is not a cure for bad fundraising. It is still essential to be smart and to test. However, it can be a create help in understanding the nuances of donor decision-making and therefore be a great help in understanding what to test and how.