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The Psychology of Giving (and How to Optimize Your Site for It)

The Psychology of Giving (and How to Optimize Your Site for It)

People have different reasons for doing what they do. Some actions respond to the situation, and some responses come from past experiences and present self-perceptions. You’ll also find that some people act out of cultural expectations or societal pressures. Some reasons are entirely personal and might never be known. But what are people’s reasons for giving or not giving to a cause? In the past few decades, a new focus emerged in research: the psychology of giving. Philanthropic psychology explores donors’ motivations for donating. Having a better understanding of why people give will strengthen your connection to your donor base and benefit your fundraising efforts, including the optimization of your website to improve the donor experience and increase contributions.

This will explain some of the takeaways from decades of research about why people give and illustrate how these insights can be incorporated into website design.

Reciprocity: Give and You Will Receive

If you do something nice for someone, they are more likely to not only feel obligated to return the kindness, they are more likely to want to do something nice for you in exchange. By giving donors small gifts, separate from any ask for a donation, you create a sense of indebtedness.

Online tips: You can offer your constituents instructional videos, research findings, engaging content, and other informational or interesting digital gifts.

Identifiable Victim Effect: Individual vs. Group Need

Most people find it easier to relate to the story of one individual than to groups of people. People are more likely to donate when they feel a connection to the cause and to when they identify with one person in need.

Online tips: Choose imagery for your website that focuses on individuals rather than groups or crowds. Include personal testimonials and narratives about how a single person or family benefited from your organization or tell the story of an individual’s struggles and how donations would help.

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Identity Confirming: Being Seen as a Moral Person

People like being seen as a moral person, and they are more likely to contribute to campaigns that reinforce their self-perceptions of who they are as individuals. According to the world’s first philanthropic psychologist, nonprofits should incorporate in their appeals at least a couple of the nine adjectives that Americans use to describe a moral person:

  1. Kind
  2. Caring
  3. Compassionate
  4. Helpful
  5. Friendly
  6. Fair
  7. Hard-working
  8. Generous
  9. Honest

This helps connect your cause to their images of themselves as moral. Research has found use of these words can increase giving by 10 percent.

Online tips: Review your web content to find places you might organically insert some of the above adjectives.

Principle of Consistency and Commitment

Behavioral consistency refers to people’s tendency to act in a way that matches their past decisions or behaviors. Individual and social pressures act on people to influence them to follow-through with commitments and be consistent in their actions. Also referred to as the “foot in the door” principle, consistency leads people who have already engaged with your organization to further establish that relationship; if they gave in the past, they will feel more compelled to do so again. In your communications with donors, remind them of their past contributions, whether that was volunteering for an activity or giving to your annual appeal.

Online tips: Begin by asking for “likes” and “follows” on your social media posts. Once they have said “yes” to following you, make requests to share your video with others. Then ask them to take another step, such as making a pledge. Get them to commit at an entry level to get your foot in the door to progressing onto larger asks.

Would you like to learn more tips for persuading people to donate? Let DonorWERX help you better engage and manage your donors.

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