In Fundraising, Dare to be Coherent

By Miriam Brosseau

A recent article by Roger Craver in The Agitator (itself based on this article by Dr. Kiki Koutmeridou detailing a “Nudge Award” winner) suggests the following provocative call to action for nonprofits: “Dare to be trivial.”

The case he shares is a powerful example of the (seemingly) trivial findings that come from smart A/B testing to change supporter behavior, in this case on a fundraising page. Below are the control and the test page.

Can you spot the difference? Can you guess which one brought in more donations?

And most importantly, can you tell *why* one succeeded over another?

Okay, I’m going to give away the punch line… The second example, the test, listed the same possible gift (thermal blankets) in different amounts, as opposed to listing entirely different outcomes for each level of gift. And because of that, it brought in a 42% income increase from donors. Really!

Craver calls this a “small, trivial tweak with big consequences.”

Dr. Koutmeridou, in the original post, shares that the significant boost is all about making the choice simpler by providing a direct comparison.

I have another theory. One that’s not so trivial, and not so tactical.

Humans are storytelling creatures. We share stories with one another (arguably the thing that most separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom), and we’re constantly telling ourselves the story of, well, ourselves – in our heads. All the time. According to research in the burgeoning field of positive psychology, this subconscious mental habit is part of the bigger human need for coherence – a sense of narrative order to our lives. A hallmark of a healthy, happy, flourishing human being is the ability to tell your own story, and feel like it makes sense.

Whether intentionally or not, we’re always telling stories. Our supporters understand themselves, and their world, in terms of story.

So what story does each of these pages tell?

At first glance, the overall narrative feels the same. There is a community in need, you can help, and here are a few ways you can do that. And let’s be perfectly clear – it works! People donate!

So why was the second page so much more effective?

Its more coherent. It sticks with the same story, all the way through to the end. There is a community in need. Here is the specific thing you can do to help them. Do more of that thing, and your specific impact will be greater. It follows, from the top of the page to the bottom. All the options tie together into one smooth, tidy narrative.

So, yes, pay attention to the “trivial” details. Yes, keep it simple. But the bigger message here is about the story you’re telling, with every move you make.

Humans crave coherence, and it’s our job to deliver. When you develop messaging, stick with your stories. Coherence drives action. Help your supporters see the story through, and they’ll help you make the biggest impact.

Like what you learned here? Apply for See3’s Strategy Summit on August 31, 2017.

Miriam Brosseau is See3’s Director of Engagement.