Money Words (guest post)

By Perry Esler, Childrens Miracle Network Hospitals:

Tell a story – give the number. That’s the simple, best-practise, message we share with hundreds of radio people every year at stations across North America. It works. $450M raised since 1998 for our partner children’s hospitals. Great stories with a great pitch means lots of calls to the donor hot line.

Now there’s research that shows we might be able to increase pledges off those calls by how we greet the donor. Philanthropic psychologist Jen Shang has released a study that shows five words tied to moral qualities prompt larger donations.






The Indiana University Professor tested her theory at an appeal of public radio station WFIU in Bloomington, Indiana. The phone volunteers answered by thanking the caller and then they would randomly pick two of the five words to describe the caller. It sounded something like this: ‘Thanks for calling. You’re a caring and compassionate donor.’ In the end female donors gave, on average, 10% more.  By contrast the use of these adjectives had no impact on men.  Suffice to say since most donors to our radiothons are women this may be worth a try.

Many events still don’t script their phone volunteers, but this study should be enough to convince you otherwise.

Here is a recent interview we at Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals conducted with Professor Shang about the study.  It concludes that a focus on the connection between moral identity and an individuals cause might create a higher ROI than focusing solely on the cause

Click here to listen to an interview Perry did with Prof. Shang.
Follow Perry on twitter here 

Don’t Be Proud

This is a great email from Drayton Bird:

When David drafted Ogilvy on Advertising he sent the manuscript to Joel and wrote “Kindly improve.”

The moral: always get someone else to look at your stuff. (I usually ask Al, who is a very good judge).

On one occasion, but only one, I edited some copy David wrote. He was very cunning – he sent it via someone else, who asked me “Could you look at some copy we’re thinking of running for the World Wildlife Fund”.

I was quite critical of one thing. Then I was astounded when the great man rang me and said “That was my copy – and you are right.”

The moral: don’t be proud.

If you’d like to know precisely what I said to David – where I quote his exact words – I tell the story in my second copywriting video.

In the first video, however, I do tell you what qualities David Ogilvy thought made a good copywriter – and who am I to disagree?

And who am I to disagree with Drayton Bird! / / / /

How Brain Science Turns Browsers into Buyers

There was a panel at SXSW this year on this topic. Fascinating stuff. Here are the slides from Roger Doorley’s presentation, thanks to Neuroscience Marketing.

He explains:

I led off with a quick intro to describe the importance of understanding non-conscious motivations that drive buying behavior, and then provided two examples of research-based strategies to improve conversion. The first was the Doppelganger Effect, in which we develop a brand preference when we see ourselves using a product. This happens even when we fully understand that it’s a crude simulation of reality, and that the pictured event never really occurred.

The second strategy was based on research that shows when primed with an image of an attractive woman, male buyers experience behavioral changes and become more oriented toward short-term gratification and goals

<div style=”width:425px” id=”__ss_11987535″> <strong style=”display:block;margin:12px 0 4px”><a href=”; title=”How Brain Science Turns Browsers into Buyers: SXSW 2012″ target=”_blank”>How Brain Science Turns Browsers into Buyers: SXSW 2012</a></strong> <div style=”padding:5px 0 12px”> View more <a href=”; target=”_blank”>PowerPoint</a> from <a href=”; target=”_blank”>Roger Dooley</a> </div> </div>

What Book Has Changed Your (Professional) Life

Nancy Schwartz asked this question of people recently. It got me thinking. I have read a lot of books and most of them would come recommended and 9 times out of 10 I nod in agreement and like what I read. Many often inspire me to email myself with ideas on how I can change what I am doing, based on what is in the book. So mostly, it is money well spent.

But when I was thinking about this question, only one book stood out…by a mile. I have to acknowledge Paul Dervan for recommending it to me (in fact he gave me his copy, which I still have!).

The book….Commonsense Direct Marketing, by Drayton Bird. (it is now updated to Commonsense Direct and Digital Marketing).

I read this book about five years into my career and it was a total game changer for me. It was a book that made me stop and think…..differently.

This book isn’t full of jargon, so its pretty accesible.  It is crammed full of examples. Wherever Drayton makes a point (and he is always pretty straight to the point, calls it as he sees it) he has an example to back it up. The book may look a bit college/text booky when you pick it up…but its not. Its full of practical insights.

This is the kind of book that gives you ideas and inspiration after every few pages. This is a funny book, engaging, entertaining….and educating.

What is great about this book is the fact that it is a reference. Some of the examples are old, but they are really relevant.Which makes them timeless.

And if you don’t believe me….here is what someone who knows a lot more about a lot more than I do had to say about it…

“Drayton Bird knows more about direct marketing than anyone else in the world. His book about it is pure gold”.

 David Ogilvy.

This book is indeed, pure gold. Here is why I like Drayton!

Free Stuff – sort of!

Bid for a Wii Fit and 2 Free Tickets to Fundraising Irelands Direct Marketing: Maximising the Impact seminar next Friday. The amount you bid gets donated to a charity of your choice!

Its simple all you have to do is tweet your bid and the charity you want to donate to. Use this tweet as your template

I Bid €XXX to win a Wii Fit & 2 tickets to @Fundraising_Ire seminar I will donate to @YourCharityName #MaxTheImpact

FREE Ticket to Kick Start 2011

Exciting news!

I have a FREE ticket to the Ask Direct Kick start 2011 event to giveaway. And there are two easy ways to win a ticket

For those on twitter: All you have to do is re- tweet this:

I’d like to attend #kickstart2o11 @conorbyrne @ask_direct (RT to win Free Ticket)

For those who arent on twitter: All you have to do is post a comment here and in less than 140 characters say why you would like to attend

I will give the ticket away on Monday when I will randomly pick someone from all the entries. The event is on next Friday, more details here

Don’t say thanks before someone does something!

I was sent a piece of mail during the week from a charity that I had supported before. I thought it was going to be a lovely update mailing on what impact my donation had made. Why did I think that? Well there was a massive thank you on the outside of the envelope.

I was really disappointed then to find the envelope contained not an update, or anything thanking me, instead in contained tickets for me to sell.

To be honest I dont mind selling the tickets, I know it works for them and I know they are a good charity. But it kind of annoyed me that they would say thanks before I agreed to do the selling. It seemed to be making a presumption that I was going to do this work for them.

I think they are right to use the outside of the envelope to encourage me to open the mailing, but in this instance I think they used the space really badly and actually were kind of sneaky in how they got me to continue to engage with them. it certainly didnt leave me with a “warm and fuzzy” feeling about them.

What do you think? Am I being unfair?

When DM comes through your door

….what happens? Well Daniel Jaszczak posted on his blog last week about his thoughts on a pack that came in from Cancer Research UK. I think its a really interesting post, and so Daniel said I could re post it. My only observation, outside of Daniels, was that it seemed to talk a lot about the organisation and not a huge amount about the donor! Anyway here is Daniels post:

This came through my letter box … Cancer Research UK

I might be strange but I actually love when we get cold mailing materials from charities through our letter box. It happened again today 🙂

To make someone, you don’t know much about, open unaddressed envelope can be tricky. I have to say that what Cancer Research UK wrote here, could give me the impression that they don’t care if I put it in the bin either. But let’s move on.

The appeal letter itself reads very well (apart from first paragraph which has font in two colours and some headlining). The copy addresses me all the time and therefore it feels personal. Good size font will make it easy to read for anyone.

First part tries to connect to reader. Straight away there is a “thank you” for not throwing it away and reading on. It mentions financial crisis and explains that also big charity like Cancer Research UK has been affected.

CR UK asks for only £2 a month and straight away assures me that this little amount would mean a lot to them. That is followed by quick breakdown of their work.

Next part of the letter tells me a bit about CR UK achievements over years and shows cancer statistics that only back up the need for their work.

Last part is a call to action. “Let’s stand up and fight this disease”. It nicely and rightly asks me not to delay filling in the form as it might end up on the pile of paperwork.It is signed by the Head of Fundraising. There is a post scriptum explaining to the existing donors why they might have received this as well.

The donation form surprised me quite a bit as it only allows me to set up Standing Order and not Direct Debit. There is also Gift Aid form on it. It is attached to the letter but perforation makes it easy to detach. It’s easy to post as there is also Freepost envelope in the pack.

All in all I enjoyed this door drop from Cancer Research UK. I wasn’t interested by the envelope but the letter copy was in my humble opinion very well written. I a bit disappointed with little choice when it comes to making a donation but the donation form itself is clean and easy to use.

I am looking forward to more mailings and I hope you understand that didn’t write this to criticise but just to share my “user experience”.

Decision Paralysis

I am a big advocate for directing donors, some people I work with prefer to let the donor decide their action. Whenever I hear that I worry!

Just as bad as no choices are offering too many choices. I recently saw a fundraising campaign which was very focussed in terms of call to action and timing and it has moved to a broader call to action and a “do it when you like” timing.

I would love to know how it’s going? My guess is not as well previous years.

Even giving donors a few choices leads to decision paralysis. Anyone who has read the Heath brothers book “Switch” will have read their example of the research carried out on doctors by Redelmeier & Shafir. In their research they gave one group of docs 2 choices, operate or try a new medication, 47% opted to try the new meds hoping to avoid an operation for their patient. However when another group was given 3 options, operate or 2 new meds, a whopping 72% chose to operate! The more options they had caused them to freeze and retreat to default, operate. For us, a donor default is to not donate! So guide the donor, don’t confuse them, don’t give them decision paralysis.

You are making the ask, so ask!

Anchoring Charity Donations

Paul Dervan posted this last week, worth a read. I think a lot of charities do this well.

Anchoring is interesting. When we are buying stuff, we’re overly influenced by one particular piece of information we are exposed to. There are lots of subtle examples. In their fascinating book Nudge, Thaler and Sunstein explain that charities can influence the amount donors give by how they present the donation options. People will give more if the options are €100, €250, €1,000 and €5,000 than if their options are €50, €75, €100 and €150.

Barry Schwartz gives more anchoring examples in his book Paradox of Choice. If you walk into a suit shop where the suits displayed are €1,500 each, and you see a nice suit for €800, this may seem like a good deal. But walk into a different store where suits are displayed at €500, and the same €800 suit seems very expensive. The pricing information is anchoring your views.

Schwartz gives more examples. For example, a high-end catalogue seller of kitchen equipment was selling an automatic bread maker for $279. Later on, they added another more expensive deluxe version for $429. While they didn’t see too many of the deluxe makers, sales of the $279 machine almost doubled

Amnesty’s “Read it or Bin It” insert – follow up from Amnesty

I posted a few weeks ago about the insert in the UK papers that Amnesty did called Read it or Bin it (you can read that post here).

I asked a few questions in the post and got a really nice response from Fiona McLaren, Amnesty’s Online Communities Editor. She told me that the team werent able to share any stats (always disappointed with that) but were happy to share some of the insight into how the campaign came about, thought you may be interested to read what they had to say

“The ‘bin it’ creative was produced specifically for the insert marketplace. Learning from other successful creatives suggested that less can be more with inserts and that we should try to get the reader to the point of the ask very quickly. So it was designed to explain the work of Amnesty International in a very short, simple and engaging way. It was first tested in Feb 2010 and out-performed, both in terms of response rate and ROI, two other test pieces. We are now rolling it out to insert media we have used successfully in the past including newspapers like The Guardian, Observer, Scotland on Sunday, The Independent and Indy on Sunday and periodicals like The Week, New Statesman, Big Issue and Time Out. At the moment, we have no plans to use the creative in other acquisition mediums but we will see how the roll out campaign works before considering other acquisition activity.” – Alistair Baggs, Senior Direct Marketing Coordinator

Top Charities know what buttons to push

This is the title of a page from the An Post website where three Irish Charities share their insights into Direct Marketing. The presentations are all on the site, free to download. Worth taking a look

You can find them here


I don’t think there is anything wrong in incentivizing people to donate, but you need to be careful that the incentive isnt the motive for the donation, especially when its just a pledge based thing (ie pledge to donate now and you could win X). In their recent editorial Nudge, nudge, Chink, chink, nfpsynergy suggest that a nice incentive increases the average direct debit size.

If you are smart about your incentives they will also continue to work for you, continue to spread the word about your organisation and make the person who donates feel proud that they are one of your supporters. I love wearing the hoody of my favourite charity out and about, I take pride in the fact that I support them. Let your incentives do this job for you.

Another interesting way to work an incentive, that I saw to great effect recently, is to send it back to the person who the donation is being made for. Let me explain. Working on an appeal recently we encouraged people to make a donation and if it was over a certain amount we would then send a teddy bear, with their name on it, to a child who would benefit (in this case, sick in hospital).

The gut reaction for things like that is to reward the donor, send them the teddy, and yes there is merit in that. But this was a really great way to turn the incentive on its head. I took calls from donors who just loved the fact that we were sending a teddy with their name on it to a child. It was happening that day and the donors were able to check out the impact of the gift through audio and online (i would love to have had pictures of the children with the teddy from each donor sent to the donor….but not sure that is possible).

Whatever you decide to do with your incentives, make sure they continue to work for you, because they do work