How better marketing can increase charity donations

The UK Government Behavioural Insights Team (or BIT for short) recently gave some thought as to how Joe Public could be encouraged to be more generous in giving to charities, particularly through using employer Payroll Giving Schemes. Having reviewed the latest scientific thinking, they then proceeded to run control experiments to see if these new ideas were effective in practice, testing and comparing different marketing approaches to potential donors. They concluded that charities would increase the value of donation by following these four straightforward steps in their marketing plans:
make it easy to give
make the idea of donating more attractive
present giving as a socially normal and acceptable action
get your timing right for the request
Sounds easy in principle doesn’t it? Let’s drill down in more detail.
Making it easy to give
Most payroll giving schemes or direct debit donations by individuals, fix the monetary value of the donation, which becomes eroded in real terms due to inflation e.g. £10 given in 2005 is now worth about £7.50 today. As employees or individuals enter into a scheme, ask them to automatically increase donations annually rather than having to ask to make an increase. Be careful to include a clearly visible ‘opt out’ clause, encouragement isn’t the same as coercion!
Making donating more attractive
Employers who are prepared to match employee donations encourage employees to give more generously than those that don’t, which acts as reward for donating. Another way of engaging your audience is to make the appeal more personalised, which is frequently employed in direct marketing campaigns. For example sending a letter addressed to Jane Jones is more likely to get her to respond than sending identical letters to all employees.
Another way to incentivise giving is by publicising a list of donors to a particular cause. In some cases, charities have successfully offered a small ‘lottery’ prize to all those who made a donation.
Offer donors a small ‘thank you’ for donating, which makes them feel much more appreciated and valued.In one study, London Deutsche Bank employees were offered sweets by charity volunteers in the lobby at the beginning of the day they were asked donate a day of their salary. Those that weren’t offered the sweets were less likely to take part in the scheme.
Present giving as socially normal and acceptable
Just as we can influenced to make an online purchase by reading peer reviews, humans can be influenced by their peers to give money to a charity. By placing people in a group to fundraise together with many other generous members , individuals donate significantly higher amounts than using a random placement.This is more effective the closer the peer group know each other. In a study with HMRC’s own staff, e-mail ‘winter greetings cards’ were sent to staff. One group received a e-mail with a message from another staff member explaining why they had signed up to a payroll giving scheme. The second group had the same message but a picture of the person was added to the e-mail, which more than doubled the uptake of the scheme.Clearly seeing the photograph of their colleague had a large influence on behaviour.
Asking people to remember a charity in their own will works better if they are reminded that many people (very like themselves) who write a will, include a charity donation. In this case the intent to make a donation is quite high, which survey suggesting around 35% of the population would like to include this. In fact only around 7% actually do so. An experiment using Co-operative Legal Services and Remember a Charity staff showed that prompting people with the right information changes their behaviour and increases legacy donating.
Getting your timing right for the request
Asking an employee to join a payroll giving scheme has a higher success rate when they are already making a change in their employment. For example, when someone starts a new job, or takes a promotion, they are usually presented with a new contract or different terms and conditions. Asking them to enrol onto a scheme at these times is easier than in the middle of an existing contract.
Asking for a higher future commitment has also been scientifically proven to be more effective than asking for the donation immediately. This may be especially true for people who get bonus or commission payments, which they see as a ‘windfall’ income. It’s strange but true that it’s better to ask for a donation from future prize money rather than give out the money and make the request.
If you’re interested in reading the full report by authors Michael Sanders, David Halpern & Owain Service, it can be found here, or call us for a confidential chat