Blog: Wonderlab

Rekindle the Spark with Your Donors

Research-Based New Year’s Resolutions for Donor Communications

By Tamara Murray

It’s time to look ahead and set goals for next year. Have you thought about your donors and how you can communicate with them better?

We have research-based lessons to show you how. Many of them are easy to implement, but get set aside when things are busy. With our collaborators at Goodwin Simon Strategic Research, we spent a year researching donors’ preferences, what communications motivate them, how to craft the perfect appeal, and more. While the research was focused on Long Island, there are broadly applicable lessons that will help you strengthen your relationship with your donors next year.

When your donors first gave to you, there was a spark — a genuine connection that motivated them to make a gift, perhaps more than once. But like any relationship, it’s easy to take for granted and the spark you initially had starts to dim.

When my fellow strategists and I work with clients, donors are often an audience with whom they want to communicate. Often, I see nonprofits focused on looking for new donors to court. While attracting new donors is important, you shouldn’t forget your existing ones.

This year, I want you to resolve to rekindle that initial spark with your donors. To create that genuine sense of connection — before you both decide to go looking elsewhere.

Resolve to get to know your donors more deeply.

Think about the strong relationships in your life. One reason those relationships are strong is because both people feel like the other really “gets” them. Our research dug deep into understanding what motivates donors on Long Island: why they make donations, what makes their community special to them, their political and religious beliefs, and more. Really knowing your donors can help you better connect with them in your communications.

Have you surveyed your donors lately? Or talked to a handful by phone or in person to learn more about why they support your organization? We learned that Long Island donors want to keep their community a great place to raise a family. As a result, local grassroots organizations worked to make a connection between their work and keeping Long Island a family-friendly place. Showing an interest in getting to know your donors better — and refining your messaging and communications based on what you learn — is a sure way to keep the spark alive.

Resolve to always show gratitude.

We recruited a mystery donor (like a mystery shopper, but for nonprofits) to make gifts to various organizations. Nearly half of the organizations never sent a thank-you note, electronically or in print. Many organizations sent an electronic receipt that only had details about the transaction amount and date, much like an ATM receipt, leaving donors feeling unappreciated.

A crucial way to show better gratitude is to say thank you quickly and consistently. Send a personalized thank-you note by mail or email shortly after receiving a gift. That’s the minimum, but you can go farther. Make them feel like the hero they are: Tell them what outcomes are possible because of their generosity. Donors who feel appreciated are more likely to be repeat donors.

Resolve to show donors just how important they are.

It’s one thing to say you appreciate someone, but sparks turn into flames when you show a donor how valuable they are. Our research tested variations in messaging, collateral and fundraising appeals; stories made all three more effective. The best stories highlighted a need or problem and how your organization’s solution, possible only because of your donors, helped to overcome that challenge.

Even if you only have a small amount of time or space, you can show donors how important they are by featuring stories about the people your organization serves. Here is a short micro-story that effectively does the job:

“My boss made me work 12 hours a day without overtime and would humiliate me. I didn’t know my options. Your support helped me and other workers in the cleaning business start our own cooperative. Now we’re the owners and the employees, and we can take better care of ourselves and our families. My life has changed so much.”

Resolve to be a giver, not just a taker.

One of the top reasons donors stop giving, according to our research, is they receive way too many asks for money. They also cite a lack of transparency about finances and where donations go. The spark in the relationship dulls when the donor feels like it’s one-sided.

The answer is that your organization needs to do a little more giving. I know, you’re hard at work making change — that’s where you give! But relationships are about give and take. When you take a donor’s money, give them the satisfaction of knowing how their money is making an impact. Give them news about your issue, an opportunity to share ideas, or non-monetary ways to support your cause — like an invitation to a (non-fundraising) event or a way to take action.

Further Reading & AdviceGiving-on-Long-Island-Feb-25-1

Want to learn more from our research on Long Island donors? Our friends at the Hagedorn Foundation asked us to create a guide for their grantees and said we could share it far and wide with other organizations. Download the research findings (PDF)

You can also learn more about how this research applies to you. Check out How Donors Decide: Lessons From a Year of Exploring Donor Attitudes on Long Island in Grassroots Fundraising Journal.

Here’s to a 2017 with strong donor relationships and positive social change.

 

 

 

Image: flickr/Patrik Nygren CC BY-SA 2.0, edited from original

lego diving into water

Immersed, Transported & Persuaded by Story

How the Right Story Can Shape Our Attitudes – and Even Our Behaviors

A Wonderlab Interview with Melanie Green

Dr. Melanie Green studies the psychology of storytelling. Her research examines how becoming immersed in a story, known as narrative transport, can influence attitudes and change behaviors.

 

Why did you become interested in storytelling?

“Stories have the power to make children go to sleep and soldiers go to war.” That’s a quote from Jens Eder, who also studies the psychology of storytelling. I love this quote because it really captures something important about stories. On the one hand, they can be really simple and very easy to understand. On the other hand, they can have the power to create social change.

Dr. Melanie Green

Melanie Green examines the power of narrative to change beliefs and behaviors.

Your research has focused on what you describe as narrative transportation. What is it and why is it important?

Narrative transportation is the experience people have when they become so engaged – or immersed – in a story that the real world just falls away. Transportation is important because it focuses the attention of the audience, elicits strong emotional reactions and generates vivid mental images. As a result, after they exit the world of the story, the transported story audience tends to maintain story-consistent beliefs. In fact, studies show that those who are more transported into narratives are more likely to show attitude and belief change.

How can transporting stories help to change people’s beliefs?

Often times when we encounter a persuasive message that doesn’t fit with what we believe, our first response is to come up with arguments against the message. But there seems to be something special about transporting stories that reduce that tendency to argue. This concept is commonly referred to as suspension of disbelief or reduction of counter arguing.

Transporting stories can also make narrative events seem like real experiences. There is a lot of psychological evidence that the very best way of changing people’s attitudes is giving them real experiences with an attitude object – a person, place, idea or event about which you can express an attitude or make a judgment. But stories may be the next best thing — stories are concrete, specific, emotional, and vivid and all of those characteristics are similar to the way that our minds store memories of our real experiences. So if we’re engaged in a story that seems like things we’ve experienced, it holds greater weight.

What story elements and factors are needed to change people’s beliefs?

Audiences are more likely to be transported – and, therefore, more likely to be persuaded – if they can relate to a character or imagine themselves in a situation that the character finds themselves in. Research suggests that there are also personality factors and individual differences that influence the transportability of a person. That is, some people tend to become immersed in stories more easily than others. ‘The need for affect,’ which is a psychological tendency to seek out emotion inducing situations, influences transportability. The quality of the narrative itself also impacts transportation; the higher the quality, the more transporting. Psychological fluency, or how easy something is to think about, impacts the influence of the narrative as well.

What are some examples of stories that have created attitude or behavior change?

Stories have the ability to impact attitudes and change behavior in a variety of ways. One project gave children Manga comics where the character gets transported into a world where he has to fight the bad guys by eating healthy food. This led children to change their food choices and select more healthy snacks. As another example, while reading a story about homophobia in college fraternities, those that were familiar with the Greek system ended up being more transported into the story and more persuaded about issues in the story than people who didn’t have that familiarity or background. There’s also some great work by Sheila Murphy showing how a video story increased viewers’ likelihood of getting screened for cervical cancer.

 

old victorian children's books

#GeekReads: 5 Quick Reads that Made Us Smarter

In this week’s #GeekReads: diversifying books; trusting others; new brain technologies; deviating from gender roles; predicting feelings.

Multicultural characters. Author, Dashka Slater, examines the lack of color and diversity in children’s literature. From Dashka Slater via Mother Jones.

Linking causes. New study finds trust is a key motivator in movement participation. From American Sociology Association via Science Daily.

Neuroethics. Scientific advances in brain technologies come with ethical questions. From Andrew Maynard via The Conversation.

Sexism in society. Journalist, Peter Beinart, evaluates why some fear women in positions of power. From Peter Beinart via The Atlantic.

Affective forecasts. Personal prejudice directly affects how empathetic we are towards others. From Association for Psychological Science via Psy Post.

 

 

Tweet us your #GeekReads at @w0nderlab.

Image: flickr/pettifoggist CC BY-SA 2.0

#GeekReads: 5 Quick Reads that Made Us Smarter

In this week’s #GeekReads: partisan media; reading the Constitution; the ideal affect; power of the mind; understanding our social brains.

Spreading disinformation. A recent study suggests that partisan media outlets encourage us to disregard information that fails to support our point of view. From Tom Jacobs via Pacific Standard.

An American read. If you were ever interested in reading the Constitution, here is a nerdy guide to getting started. From Garrett Epps via The Atlantic.

Affect valuation theory. A study from the American Psychological Association examines the relationship between how we would like to feel and how we actually feel. From Marianna Pogosyan Ph.D. via Psychology Today.

Cheering up the world. A clever poem written by a high schooler goes viral with a very inspiring message. From Mark DeNicola via Collective Evolution.

The social brain. Scientists constructed a neurodevelopmental model of a rare genetic disorder that may help explain what makes humans social beings. From University of California at San Diego via PsyPost.

 

Tweet us your #GeekReads at @w0nderlab.

Image: flickr/freyjo7 CC-BY-ND 2.0

Chairs posed for conversation

#GeekReads: 5 Quick Reads that Made Us Smarter

In this week’s #GeekReads: opening up conversations about race; connections between emotional, mental and physical health; contagious generosity; brain systems that contribute to empathy; operating on instinct.

Open conversation. Psychologists Keith B. Maddox and Heather L. Urry work to motivate people to approach rather than avoid conversations regarding race. From Jacqueline Mitchell via Phys.

Emotional health.
New research explores the way our emotions directly affect our physical health. From Christina Sarich via Collective Evolution.

Contagious generosity. We are more likely to be empathetic when we observe others’ empathetic responses. From Tom Jacobs via Pacific Standard.

Cognition, not sensation. Understanding and empathizing with someone else’s pain is neurologically different from experiencing our own physical pain. From University of Colorado at Boulder via PsyPost

Fight or flight. Rachael Sharman discusses the functional and adaptive purposes of the fight, flight, or freeze response to a feared stimulus. From Rachael Sharman via The Conversation

 

Tweet us your #GeekReads at @w0nderlab.

Image: flickr/refreshment_66 CC-BY-ND 2.0

Woman in room with yellow wallpaper

#GeekReads: 5 Quick Reads that Made Us Smarter

In this week’s #GeekReads: beauty in the breakdown; environmental impact on well-being; the trouble with “colorblind” racial attitudes; anxieties about death; fostering empathy via Facebook.

The sanity of madness. We are programmed to feel like we always need to be on top of our game but sometimes a “good” breakdown can allow us to reconnect with ourselves. From Alexa Erickson via Collective Evolution.

The world around us. Environments can have a detrimental or beneficial influence on our well-being and decision-making. From Frontiers via Psy Post.

Seeing color. Claiming to be blind to race can discount and alienate those who experience racial inequalities. From University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign via PHYS.

Facing mortality. The fear of death underlies most of our fears and phobias. From Lisa Iverach via The Conversation.

Social interaction. In a new study, adolescents who frequently use social media increased their levels of both cognitive and affective empathy. From Tom Jacobs via Pacific Standard.

 

 

Tweet us your #GeekReads at @w0nderlab.

Image: flickr/JD Hancock CC-BY-2.0

Vincent Van Gogh painting an iPhone

#GeekReads: 5 Quick Reads that Made Us Smarter

In this week’s #GeekReads: remembering one of music’s great; gender neutral bathrooms at the White House; facing fears; sensing the gist of the world; avoiding empathy burnout.

The loss of an icon. Prince was a symbol for activism and revolution, who called for change and fought for justice, and the steps he took for social justice will not soon be forgotten. From True Activist.

Gender neutral bathrooms. President Obama opens the first gender neutral restroom at The White House. From Maria Caspani via Charisma News.

Scary stories. One author seeks to empower and inspire her young readers through scary stories. From N.D. Wilson via The Atlantic.

The illusion of realitySome neuroscientists argue that the world is nothing like the one we experience through our senses. From Cell Press via Science Daily.

Empathy burnout. The stress of opening ourselves up to the suffering of others can leave us feeling hardened, but forming a goal to alleviate suffering can make empathy feel less draining. From Jamil Zaki via Nautilus.

 

Tweet us your #GeekReads at @w0nderlab.

Image: flickr/JD Hancock CC BY-2.0

Puppy scared of larger dog

#GeekReads: 5 Quick Reads that Made Us Smarter

In this week’s #GeekReads: political disengagement; Zootopia and “otherness”; refugee resettlement in the United States; fearful possibilities; expectancy-based memory.

Conflict avoidance. A researcher assesses which types of political stimuli might be most stressful to citizens. From The College of William Mary via PHYS.

Predator vs prey. Disney’s latest movie Zootopia shines a line on the politics of fear in the United States. From Scott Lucas via The Conversation.

Refugee resettlement. The U.S. takes in far fewer refugees than its counterparts around the world. Priscilla Alvarez explores complex American responses to refugee resettlement. Via The Atlantic

Uncertainty effect. People are more likely to be stressed out by the possibility of an event than the inevitability of one. From University College London via Science Daily

Memory formation. We are more likely to remember information if there is an expectation that we will need to recall the information in the future. From Penn State via Psy Post.

 

Tweet us your #GeekReads at @w0nderlab.

Image: flickr/Quiddle CC BY-SA 2.0

Handicap accesible parking

#GeekReads: 5 Quick Reads that Made Us Smarter

In this week’s #GeekReads: the Nobel Peace Prize for educators; the spectrum of varying ability; empathy through opera; improving customer recommendations through artificial empathy; hardwired for altruism.

Destigmatizing disabilities. In a culture where genetic mutations stand in for entire identities, Sara Hendren wants to change cultural understandings of disability. From Ankur Paliwal via Nautilus.

Building peace. A Palestinian teacher and former refugee who advocates non-violence was honored with the Global Teacher of the Year Award. From Amanda Froelich via True Activist.

A soldier’s tale. A new opera based on the actual experiences of Christian Ellis, a trained opera singer who enlisted in the Iraq War, brings healing and empathy. From Neda Ulaby via NPR.

Artificial empathy. Marketing researcher Shasha Lu is developing software that can infer people’s internal state based on information they emit from facial expressions or responses. From University of Cambridge via Phys.

Inherently prosocial. Recent studies show that the brain is naturally altruistic, and that increasing empathy is possible through noninvasive procedures. From UCLA via Science Daily.

 

Tweet us your #GeekReads at @w0nderlab.

Image: flickr/Shawn Campbell CC BY 2.0

Blue and yellow beach umbrellas

#GeekReads: 5 Quick Reads that Made Us Smarter

In this week’s #GeekReads: lucky loyalty effect; the youngest published author; problem solving across ideology; the effects of housing segregation on health; brain mechanics behind fear.

The Lucky Loyalty Effect.  New research suggests that consumers believe the more loyal they are to a brand, the more likely they are to receive preferential treatment. Via Cognitive Lode.

Young minds. Nine-year-old Anaya Lee Wullabus is the youngest person in the U.S. to publish a chapter book. From Taryn Finley via The Huffington Post.

Different folks.  Conservatives and liberals don’t differ in their capacity to solve problems; they differ in the processes used to solve them. From Northwestern University via Psy Post.

Drawing lines. A recent study examines the adverse health effects of racial segregation. From Olga Khazan via The Atlantic.

Fear-provoked decisions. Fear and anxiety can over-engage entire brain circuits and disengage brain cells, interfering with decision making. From The University of Pittsburgh via Science Daily.

 

Tweet us your #GeekReads at @w0nderlab.

Image: flickr/Ed Dunens CC BY 2.0

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