| 3 min read

 How to Design Behaviors for a Donor

The goal of behavior design is to influence a person (sometimes yourself) to take a specific action. 

(Btw influence does not mean manipulate but that’s for another post). 

So how do you do it? 

For any action to take place, it’s a combination of the persons 

  1. Level of motivation to take the action desired of them 
  2. Level of ability to take the action desired of them 
  3. The existence of a prompt 

(All of this comes from the science provided by the amazing @bjfogg) 

Dr. Fogg gives us this great model to help us understand the relationship between these elements…

Now let’s talk about each of these from a fundraising perspective…

MOTIVATION – A study in 2017 identified these 3 reasons why donors felt motivated to give: Believing in the mission of the organization (54%) Believing that their gift can make a difference (44%) Experiencing personal satisfaction, enjoyment, or fulfillment (39%). (More to come on how organizations are doing the ‘experiencing personal satisfaction, enjoyment or fulfillment in a community-centric way). Also, it’s important to note that hope drives motivation up, and fear drives motivation down.

⬆️ motivation = ability can be ‘harder’ for the donor and they can still get over the action line 

⬇️ motivation = the action needs to be really easy to do for the prompt to hit over the action line 

So now let’s talk about ability…

ABILITY – With donating ability can be related to how much you were asking them to give. If you send a number of people who gave you $25 a request for $5000 that ability might be so low that no matter how motivated they are, they cannot get over the action line. Ability is also critical When it comes to how difficult it is for folks to make a donation. If they have to write a check and send it in the mail to get your money, that means they need to have a much higher level of motivation in order to take the action. If your donation page has a 12-step process, again the motivation needs to be much higher for the prompt to work. 

PROMPT – People HAVE to be prompted to take an action. The ‘they’ll give if they want to, they know we always need money’ excuse for not asking is FALSE. Every action requires a prompt. Answering the question of why someone should donate ‘right now’ (in an authentic way) increases their motivation to give in the moment. It must, of course, be followed by a specific call to action. The ‘now’ matters because that’s where the prompt is (meaning if they do not take action at the moment of the prompt they will NOT take that action unless prompted again). 

One more thing about prompts… 

Some of you might be thinking ‘but sometimes people give when we haven’t sent out an email or given a specific prompt’. 

That might be true but it does not mean that they were not prompted. It means they were prompted by something else in their life: a friend, something they read, their accountant reaching out to them about taxes, etc. I’m going to say it again, people will not take action without a prompt.

If you are struggling to get someone to take the desired action, here’s the order you should go in to identify the problem…

  1. Was there a specific prompt? If not, there is your problem. 
  2. How can you make the action you were asking them to do easier? That is your first line of iteration to get people over the action line. 
  3. After you have done one and two then you can look at trying to increase motivation.

To learn more about designing habits and behaviors using science like this, check out Episode 5 of What the Fundraising with Dr. BJ Fogg himself! 

To learn more about my work and get 1:1 support designing behaviors for your donors book a VIP Day: LEARN MORE

For more of my favorite fundraising tips and tricks, check out my Resource page! Here, you can find relevant articles, webinars, quizzes, etc. about fundraising in the nonprofit sector. In addition, you can subscribe to What the Fundraising for ongoing conversations about how you can fundamentally change the way you lead and fundraise. And to learn how to raise more from the right funders using the Power Partners Formula, you are always welcome to join one of my free Masterclasses at malloryerickson.com/free.

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