All posts in “Storytelling”

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

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

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

Mural of people's faces

#GeekReads: 4 Quick Reads + 1 Watch that Made Us Smarter

In this week’s #GeekReads: the surge of singlehood; hashtag activism; moral flip-flopping; universal story structure; irrational preferences.

Families of choice. There has been a shift in the traditional form of family, from marriage and nuclear families to more of an emphasis on individualism. From Bella DePaulo via Nautilus.

#Change. New research from American University’s Center for Media & Social Impact examines the power of hashtags to ignite movement in social change. From American University via PsyPost.

Moral flip-flopping. Research suggests that, for most individuals, moral character is very stable and not so likely to change. From Gerry Everding via Futurity.

From exposition to denouement. Professor Paul Zak discusses the effects of the classic dramatic arc on our brain chemistry, and ultimately on our decisions and actions. From Future of Storytelling via Aeon.

Rationalizing being irrational. A new study examines how our irrational choices go hand in hand with making better choices overall. From Nathan Collins via Pacific Standard.

 

Tweet us your #GeekReads at @w0nderlab.

Image: flickr/Garry Knight CC BY 2.0

Books stacked

#GeekReads: 4 Quick Reads + 1 Watch that Made Us Smarter

In this week’s #GeekReads: Chris Rock takes on Oscar diversity; fighting for public health; The Great Migration; taking a hard look at racial assumptions in publishing; how books can keep us on the edge of our seat.

Exclusion at the awards. Oscar host Chris Rock used comedy to address the reality that people of color are often underrepresented in film and television. From Eric Deggans via NPR.

Empowered by science. One team of researchers and scientists helped to educate and rally the people of Flint, Michigan. Via The Conversation.

The Great Migration. A short film shines light on the migration of six million African Americans from the rural South to the North over a hundred years ago. From Carlos Javier Ortiz via The Atlantic.

Disparities in publishing. New York Times Magazine editor Chris Jackson discusses how editors’ assumptions can shrink writers of color to a sliver of their identity. From Brandon Tensley via Pacific Standard.

“Not all was as it seemed.” A team of Stanford grad students examine where emotions like suspense come from when we read. From Clifton B. Parker via Futurity.

 

Tweet us your #GeekReads at @w0nderlab.

Image: flickr/Moyan Brenn CC BY 2.0

#GeekReads: 5 Quick Reads that Made Us Smarter

In this week’s #GeekReads: brain size and extinction risk; chocolate on the brain; impulses towards retribution; the online spread of Ebola fears; the legacy of Harper Lee.

Extinction vulnerability. Surprisingly, animals with larger relative brain sizes may face greater risk of extinction. From Stanford University via Futurity

A chocolate a day. Regularly eating chocolate may help the brain retain mental sharpness. From Tom Jacobs via Pacific Standard.

Crime & Punishment. A philosopher offers a different vision for our country’s justice system, less based on punishment, and more on rehabilitation and empathy. From Neil Levy via Aeon.

Snowballing stress. With the help of the Internet, stress and fear have the ability to spread faster and further than other emotions. From Adrienne Berard via Nautilus.

Take a walk in someone else’s skin. Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird reflects a respect not just for the arc of history, but for the hope that it does indeed bend toward justice. From Megan Garber via The Atlantic.

 

Tweet us your #GeekReads at @w0nderlab.

Image: flickr/Ken Teegarden CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Viewmaster

#GeekReads: 5 Quick Reads that Made Us Smarter

In this week’s #GeekReads: replaying rewarding memories; writing the good and bad; cross-language brain interaction; animating the immigration debate; beyond “victimhood.”

Memory loop. Our brain replays memories of rewarding situations as we rest. From University of California, Davis via Psy Post.

Escaping “likability.” Author Tony Tulathimutte talks about getting away from writing “good,” morally upstanding protagonists. From Joe Fassier via The Atlantic.

Bilingual brains. Learning two languages reshapes the structure and networks in the brain. From Penn State via Psy Post.

Bordertown. A new animated show, set in the fictional Southwest, uses satire and comedy to explore opposing sides of the immigration debate. From Mandalit del Barco via NPR.

Transcending the “victimhood” narrative. One migrant shares his story of prolonged, painful initiation that shaped the man he is today. From Sarah Menkedick via Aeon.

 

Tweet us your #GeekReads at @w0nderlab.

Image: flickr/Geof Wilson CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Scared cat

#GeekReads: 5 Quick Reads that Made Us Smarter

In this week’s #GeekReads: the benefits of anxiety; story motifs across time; healthy social networks; origins of phobias; links between the amygdala and kindness.

Detecting social threats. Anxious people may process social threats in a different region of the brain than less anxious people. From eLife via Science Daily.

Story skeletons. From perilous journeys to brave new worlds, the structure of storytelling remains much the same across time. From John Yorke via The Atlantic.

Healthy relationships. A recent study finds strong social relationships can help to reduce health risks throughout a person’s life. From University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill via PsyPost.

Pre-wired fear? A lack of understanding of how fear is acquired can lead us to believe that phobias are pre-wired when in fact they may be more of an adaptation. From Graham C.L. Davey Ph.D. via Psychology Today.

Monkeying around. By observing amygdala activity in rhesus macaques, researchers can predict when one monkey will behave charitably toward another. From Michele Berger via Futurity.

 

Tweet us your #GeekReads at @w0nderlab.

Image: flickr/Dat CC BY-ND 2.0

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