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How to Motivate Donors: The Donor Persuasion Model

As I speak with nonprofit leaders, one key question continues to emerge: Why do our donors give? On the surface, the answer may seem obvious, but the question persists because it’s truly difficult to answer. We all give for different reasons and with different motivations. Yet, the question of “Why?” follows the challenge of “How?”: How do we motivate giving of all types: money, time, talent, and energy? As The NonProfit Times wrote in a recent blogpost: “There is no denying that you can’t force someone to give if they don’t want to.”

To help answer both questions of Why and How, I’ve started constructing a model called the Donor Persuasion Model. It’s based on the work of Stanford Professor, BJ Fogg, and his Fogg Behavior Model. Fogg’s research shows that “three elements must converge at the same moment for a behavior to occur: Motivation, Ability, and Trigger. When a behavior does not occur, at least one of those three elements is missing.”

This model attempts to address motivations for giving, as well as how to encourage our donors to take action on those motivations. At a high level, here are the basic components of the Donor Persuasion Model:

Motivation

There are three core motivators that we all share as part of the human experience:

1. Sensation: Pleasure/Pain
Will our giving lead us to greater pleasure or diminish pain – either for ourselves or for others?

2. Anticipation: Hope/Fear
Will our giving help us provide hope or reduce pain, suffering, or fear in the world?

3. Social Cohesion: Acceptance/Rejection
Will our giving help us to feel more accepted by others or keep us from being rejected from social groups?

Ability

Each ability is focused on the notion of simplicity.
1. Time
2. Money
3. Physical Effort
4. Mental Effort

As nonprofit leaders, we must constantly focus on making actions as easy and simple as possible, particularly when it comes to online fundraising. Fogg advises us to think of the relationship between Ability and Simplicity like this:

Simplicity is a function of your scarcest resource at that moment. Think about time as a resource, If you don’t have 10 minutes to spend, and the target behavior requires 10 minutes, then it’s not simple. Money is another resource. If you don’t have $1, and the behavior requires $1, then it’s not simple.

Trigger

Think of Triggers as recipes for spurring action depending on levels of Motivation and Ability.

1. Facilitator: High Motivation/Low Ability
A supporter has just read an amazing story or watched an impactful video about our organization’s work. They’re primed to give, but don’t have the time to complete a lengthy donation form or can’t easily get their credit card. This Trigger is about finding ways to make the donation process simple. Think of Amazon’s One-Click Shopping button as an example.

2. Spark: Low Motivation/High Ability
Another scenario is where we’ve made the donation process easy…now we have to know which message will best motivate and mobilize our donors. This is the most challenging trigger because it demands that we have consistent, current, and deep data on our donors. We don’t just have basic contact data, response rates, and giving history; we also have an understanding of what each of our donors believes is important about our organization’s work. This Trigger urges us to provide an emotional Spark to ignite action and complete the ask.

3. Signal: High Motivation/High Ability
All of our nonprofits have true believers who champion our cause. But life can get busy and they just need a little nudge every once in a while to continue their role as champion.

Here’s where I need your help. This Model is currently in version 1.0 and I welcome your input. I’d love to get your feedback on what works for you as a fundraiser and how the model can be improved. You can download a PDF of the model below. I truly look forward to the conversations to come.

Nonprofit Donor Persuasion Model (681 downloads)
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When Disaster Strikes: Does Your Product Marketing Include A Succession Plan?

One of the activities I love the most about being a product marketer is interviewing customers. While I start with the mission of learning about their use of Journyx’s products, the anthropologist in me always aims to develop a richer picture of the customer’s organizational cultures. In the span of an hour-long interview, I can’t go too deep but I can begin to glean some important clues about the relationships between people and their tools. My working hypothesis is that how a company adopts and uses technology – whether they do it successfully, fail dramatically, or fall somewhere in between – is tied closely to the cultures that exist within the company. (There’s a whole lot more to say about this and I hope to dive into it in more detail in upcoming posts.)

In my latest interviews, one subject that’s popped out at me is how knowledge around technological tools changes and is passed from person-to-person. In other words, how does an organization’s cultural understanding and use of Journyx’s time tracking toolset transfer from experienced employees to new hires? Think of your own organization. There are two ways of looking at this.

1. Within your own company, what tools do you use to get work done? Could be Sharepoint, Salesforce, or some other online tool. It could also be a non-online tool (think about how to get that conference room projector to work). Hopefully, you have individuals who are experts in managing these tools…but what happens if they leave? More to the point, what happens if they leave unexpectedly? Does your company of a succession plan to ensure a successful transfer of knowledge? If not, maybe it’s time to think about that potential scenario where your expert goes away and you’re left fumbling around looking for answers.

2. If you’re a product marketer, this offers a unique opportunity to build customer loyalty. I can’t think of many companies out there actively helping their customers build personalized succession plans. There’s tremendous value to working with customers to build succession plans. Think about how much stronger the relationship will be after helping a frazzled customer successfully continue their processes when disaster strikes?

Is succession planning a part of your company’s product service portfolio?

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