- Thu, April 09 2009
- Filed under: Marketing essentials
This is my April Fundraising Success column.
How are you feeling about that headline? What if I went on to say, “And I wrote a really good book about nonprofit marketing that you should definitely buy. It’s a work of staggering genius.”
More than likely, you’d feel more than a little skeptical. You might wonder, “Who the heck is this show-off?” You might even turn the page of this magazine, muttering under your breath, “What a shameless self promoter!”
Here’s my point: telling everyone you’re great isn’t so great. That presents an interesting problem for fundraisers. Our job is to convince people that we’re a great cause, but the way to do that isn’t as simple as telling people that we’re a great cause.
One of my all-time favorite social psychologists, Robert Cialdini of Influence fame, has put a lot of study into how to solve this conundrum. One scientifically proven solution is to get someone else – preferably a true believer, but even a paid representative - to do the promotion for you. He describes how well this works in his new book, Yes!
Cialdini describes a research experiment in which participants were asked to imagine themselves in the role of a senior editor for a book publisher. They were told they were to review excerpts from a negotiation for a sizable book advance for a successful author. One group of people read excerpts written by the author’s agent. The other group read identical comments made by the author himself.
So what happened? If you guessed the former group rated better, you win. A third party endorsement is very, very valuable.
Cialdini shares another neat trick his colleagues applied to a real estate firm. The receptionist originally answered the phone and directed callers with phrases like, “Oh, you need to speak to Judy, she does rentals.” She was recommended to change this to, “Oh, rentals, you need to speak to Judy, who has over 15 years’ experience renting properties in this neighborhood.” I’d definitely feel better with the latter experience.
So what does this mean to you? It means that your supporters, volunteers, program participants, neighbor – anyone – is going to be more persuasive than you in making a case that your organization is wonderful. It means you should rethink how you approach everyone. It means you need to think about new messengers.
This has never been more true than now. People are more suspicious than ever of claims of superiority, unless they come from people they know. The rise of social media is all about the trust and sense of community we feel within our circles of influence.
Have your champions flaunt your credentials. Encourage them to trumpet your merits. Thank them profusely when they toot your horn so you don’t have to do it yourself. (The sound emanating from the horn is far lovelier when you’re not the one playing it.)
Test this approach in your next appeal. Try it out in your thank you notes. Have a volunteer hand-write a few, identifying themselves as a volunteer, and see the amazing response you get.
In the meantime, for more advice on being persuasive, buy a copy of Yes!, Dr. Cialdini’s new book. It has a terrific list of 50 scientifically proven ways to be persuasive, including the one shared in this column.
To conclude, I have one question for you: Whose book will you buy? Mine or his? His, of course, because my promotion of his book is a lot more convincing than my own self-promoting pitch. That’s why the blurbs on my book jacket are from other people.
Just further proof of how much the messenger matters. To you. And to your donors.