I am currently re-reading “Switch: How to change things when change is hard” by Chip Heath & Dan Heath. Amongst the many dog-eared, and underlined sections is a brief line on page 17: “What looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity.”
The author’s example is a public health campaign in West Virginia that specifically directed residents to switch their milk drinking from whole to 1% or skim. Instead of the valuable – but diffuse and difficult – goal of simply “acting healthier,” the campaign gave clear instructions.
What can this mean for non-profits? Quite a bit.
At a recent fundraising auction checkout, one of our cashiers requested “an additional donation to support the work of the beneficiary.” Her line had a smaller than 5% donation rate. Our other checkout line asked winning bidders to “round up their purchase by 2, 5, 10, or 18 dollars” (whatever brought them to the nearest $100 figure). This money would go to purchase a new pick up truck to be used by members. This second line had a 37% round up rate. For a small non-profit that was the difference between $10 dollars in the first line and $475 in the second. Neither was enough to buy a pickup, but with clear instructions the actual dollars in the bank increased by 40 times.
What about you? How specific are you with your asks? Do you tie gifts to specific programs, ask for discrete amounts at particular times, or take advantage of triggers in the environment of your supporters?
Other take home messages from Switch for fundraising:
- Follow your bright spots. If a campaign, donor, or programming is exceeding your goals, try to determine why and replicate it.
- Marry long term goals with short term critical moves. Your mission is critical, but showing your staff and supporters how you will get there shrinks the change, and energizes giving.
- Script the moves. For an organization that fights homelessness, linking a monthly gift equal to 1% of a donor’s mortgage payments can keep your mission front of mind and the amount and timing of donation clear.
- Grow your people. Increase their role and identity within your organization. Donors who support a public health campaign might become “messengers” – with their donation receipt you can arm them with support materials and task them to teach 10 friends the importance of breast self exams.
- Act more like a coach and less like a scorekeeper. Everything looks like a failure in the middle. Focus on the valleys of a program as learning opportunities rather than failures. There should be no “never” – only “not yet.”
- Use the score when it can help you. The herd mentality can work for you. If the majority of your board members have exceeded last year’s gift, use that fact. People tend to fall in line with their peers.
What is your favorite take home from “Switch”?