April 16, 2012

Five Words That Helped a Local Nonprofit Raise More Money

Most fundraisers know that it is important to thank people as they consider whether to make a gift. But an experiment by fundraisers in Indiana has also found that women are likely to give more money to charities that use words like "caring" and "compassionate" when they are thanking prospective donors for considering a gift. Men, however, aren't influenced by those words.

Jen Shang, an Indiana University assistant professor who specializes in what she calls philanthropic psychology, recently worked with WFIU, a public radio station in Bloomington, Ind., to test the use of those and other words in their conversations with donors during the station's annual pledge drive.

As part of the experiment, volunteers who answered calls from potential supporters were instructed to use one of five words when thanking donors for calling: caring, compassionate, helpful, friendly, and kind.

The results were revealing: Women donors who heard one of those five words during their conversation with a volunteer gave an average of $100. Women who heard a normal thank-you gave an average of $83.

In addition to increasing the amount donors gave, Ms. Shang says, the subtle language also made donors feel better about their gifts—an important consideration for nonprofits that run frequent campaigns and risk irritating their supporters.

However, appealing to a donor's compassion appears to work only with women. The five words had no effect on giving by men, Ms. Shang says.

In the latest episode of Fundraising Fundamentals, Ms. Shang and Eva Zogorski, WFIU's development director, discuss their experiment and what they've learned about how certain words encourage some donors to be more generous.

Tony Martignetti, a consultant, author, blogger, and host of Tony Martignetti Nonprofit Radio, talks with nonprofit leaders and consultants about how organizations can more effectively raise money, build better relationships with boards and supporters, and manage volunteers. Look for new installments on the third Thursday of each month.