[VIDEO] Using Psychology to Boost Your Fundraising

Jarrett Way will give you a new understanding of the subtle, predictable, and (often) irrational ways donors think. And you’ll have concrete ways to apply these great “brain hacks” to your organization.

Full Transcript:

Steven: All right, Jarrett, we’re rolling. So is it okay if I go ahead and get this party started officially?

Jarrett: Absolutely. Sounds good.

Steven: All right, awesome. Well, welcome, everyone. Good afternoon, if you’re on the East Coast. Good morning, just barely, if you’re on the West Coast. Thanks for being here for today’s Bloomerang Webinar, “Hacking the Mind: How To Use Psychology To Boost Your Fundraising.” Love that topic. I’m so glad to see a full room. Hope you all are doing okay. Hope you’re staying healthy, staying busy, and I’m so glad to have you here for the next hour or so. I’m Steven, I’m over here at Bloomerang, Bloomerang home office, not the real Bloomerang office, but I’ll be moderating today’s discussion as always. And just a couple of housekeeping items before we get going here.

Just want to let you all know real quick we’re recording this. We’ll be sending out the recording, the slides, so don’t worry if you miss something or you just want that stuff, don’t worry, I’ll send it to you this afternoon by email, I promise. If you have to leave early or maybe have an appointment, don’t worry, we’ll get all that good stuff to you. Most importantly, I know a lot of you are already done this, but if you haven’t, please use that chat box right there on your webinar screen. Tell us who you are, where you’re from, what your organization does, introduce yourself, but most importantly, ask us questions. We’re going to save some time during the presentation at the end for questions. So don’t be shy, don’t sit on those hands, we’d love to hear from you. We love for these sessions to be interactive. You can also send us a tweet. I’ll be keeping an eye on the Twitter feed as well if you want to talk to us there. We’d love to hear from you. So don’t be bashful about that at all.

If this is your first Bloomerang webinar, just want to say an extra special welcome to all you folks. We do these webinars just about every Thursday throughout the year. Actually, we’ve been doing multiple sessions throughout the week so if this is your first webinar, so glad to have you. We love doing these webinars. It’s one of our favorite thing we do here at Bloomerang. But what we are most known for is our software. We’re a provider of donor management software. So if you are curious about that or maybe shopping or are interested in switching soon, check us out, check out our website. You can even watch all kinds of videos and take video tours of the software. You don’t have to talk to anybody before you look at us. I know how it is. So check that out later on. Don’t do that right now because I’m super happy to be welcoming back a friend of mine from Mighty Citizen, one of my favorite agencies. You’ve got Jarrett Way joining us from beautiful Austin, Texas. Jarrett, how you doing? You doing okay?

Jarrett: I’m doing great. Thanks, Steven.

Steven: It’s awesome to have you. I love Mighty Citizen. I always get excited when you reach out to us and have a cool session to give us. I don’t know where you find your people or how you do your hiring, but every single person I’ve talked to, and Jarrett is no exception, is like a mad genius. I don’t know how you find those people over at Mighty Citizen.

Jarrett: They’d be happy to hear.

Steven: Yeah, it’s true. I mean, we’ve had Andrew, Rachel, Caroline, they do really, really good work, really cool stuff over there. Check them out later on. They’ve got awesome resources. I think we even have some happy mutual customers that can vouch for their work that they do. Jarrett’s over there. He’s got a strong background with lots of different nonprofits. He’s over there at Mighty Citizen now helping out with their communications. He’s got a lot of knowledge to bring to bear for you folks today. So I don’t want to take up any more time, especially because I just noticed a typo on the slide. So I’m going to stop sharing these slides and, Jarrett, I’ll let you pull up your slides, my friend and it’ll be your show. Here we go.

Jarrett: All right. I think we’re all set. You see my screen, Steven?

Steven: Not yet. I do you see your name though. There it goes. Yep. Now it’s working.

Jarrett: Awesome. Cool. All right, thank you all for attending “Hack the Mind: Using Psychology to Boost Online Engagement,” and welcome from Austin, Texas. Again, Mighty Citizen is based here. I do want to start out and just do a quick activity with you all. So I want you look at this spinning figure and I want you to let me know in the chat box if she is spinning clockwise or counterclockwise. And I’ll give you a few seconds to do so. And the responses are flooding in. Well, the answer is both. You’ve been hoodwinked, bamboozled. It just depends on your perspective, right? The way that you’re looking at it, she’s either spinning clockwise or counterclockwise. Let me do one more activity with you. Right?

So three triangles here, and when the words appear in these triangles, I want you just to read them as quickly as possible just as you might normally. Easy, right? Well, I want you to look again real quick. Paris in the the spring, once in a a lifetime, the the hand. You’ve been hoodwinked. Bamboozled once again. And the reality is, ladies and gentlemen, that the human mind is complex and it is irrational. So when you were presented with this, initially you did not even notice the mistake, most likely. But there are mistakes in all three of these triangles and your mind is working subconsciously, maybe not against you, but it is working subconsciously.

So what does it mean through the lens of mission, focus, marketing and communications? By the end of this “Hack the Mind” session, I want you to appreciate the complexity of the human mind and how it responds to the messages that you’re putting out. And I want you to begin feeling comfortable experimenting with these psychological, excuse me, psychological tactics in order to communicate with your target audiences.

So before we go any further, I just want to say I am not Sigmund Freud. I am not a professional psychologist, psychiatrist. I am none of those things. But I am Jarrett Way, as Steven mentioned. I’m the marketing manager here at Mighty Citizen. Mighty Citizen is a full-service marketing and branding agency for mission-driven organizations. So we work a lot with nonprofits, associations, universities, government agencies, and I have a career in strategic communications, content marketing, and storytelling for mission-driven organizations, and I particularly love psychology. I love the intersection of psychology and communications. So as Steven mentioned, we will be taking questions at the end of this. I’m excited to hear those from you all and for whatever reason, if we don’t get to your question, you can always email me at jway@mightycitizen.com. Again, I love to talk about this stuff and I’d be happy to chat.

So there was a global study conducted back in 2000 and that study indicated that the human attention span in 2000 was 12 seconds long. And we had goldfish beat by just a few seconds at nine. The same study was conducted in 2013 and that indicated that the human attention span had plummeted down to 8 seconds under the goldfish. And it’s probably even lower than that today.

So why do you care as a communicator, as a marketer, why is this important to you? Well, the reality is that you just have a few precious moments to grab the attention of someone who wasn’t even looking to give it to you to begin with. You have about eight seconds, maybe less, to capture their interest and to convert that into some real engagement for your organization. And that’s not easy to do in eight seconds. And it’s even scarier when you consider the sheer amount of content that exists online.

So as a mission-driven organization, you’re often thinking about your competitors, right? So if you’re a nonprofit, you’re thinking about the other nonprofits in that same space that you occupy that are doing similar work. If you’re an association, maybe other regional or national level organizations that do similar work. Or maybe if you’re a university, you’re looking at the other universities that offer and are competitive in the same programs that you offer. But online, you’re competing with all of the internet and against that eight-second attention span I was just talking about. This is an updated graphic for 2020 and this is everything that happens on the internet in just 1 minute, in just 60 seconds, and I will tell you, I am a card-carrying millennial and this still shocks me. 2.5 million snapshots a minute, almost 5 million videos viewed on YouTube and 4.1 million search queries.

You can just look around this chart. It’s really insane the amount of content in just one minute that gets pumped onto the internet. In fact, there’s a study out of China that indicated that there’s 2.5 quintillion types of content created every single day on the internet. Yes, that is 17 zeros. You don’t have to count, I counted for you. That’s a lot of content and that’s a lot for the human brain to take in, right? The brain processes 400 billion bits of information every second and we can only understand about 2000 bits per second. So as marketers and communicators, how do you get to the subconscious understanding and how can you access the depth of the brain that will drive donations, memberships, or whatever your goal might be. How can we access that subconscious understanding? That’s what this presentation is about. I want to give you the tools and empower you with the knowledge to understand how you can start to bolster your communications and put it in a certain way so that you can start to move the needle with your fundraising.

So I want to make a quick note about psychographics and before I jump into definitions about what psychographics are, any of that, I’m just curious, if you could put in the chat box and I’ll give you a few seconds to do so, does your organization have psychographic profiles of your users? For those of you who know what psychographics are, do you use psychographic profiles for your users? And I’ll give you just a few seconds. So, typically, we don’t see a lot of people, a lot of organizations using psychographics in their organizations in building these profiles. So I want to talk a little bit about what psychographics are. So this is Deepa. Deepa is a member of your target audience and she represents a more generalized human persona for you. So many organizations do a demographic analysis, right? So those are the things that you can check off, list off, things like gender, location, education, income, religion, any of those things.

And they might come up with something like this for Deepa. She is a female, she lives within 50 miles, she’s a high school graduate, a mother of three, she’s a business owner, an immigrant, she makes high income, and she’s religious. Now, there’s nothing wrong with generating this information about your user, but it isn’t and it should not be the end all be all that informs your messaging to your audiences. Rather, psychographics more accurately fill in the gaps. What we’re trying to understand is a personality profile of your audiences. So in psychographics are those demographics look like this. Deepa is extroverted, she’s aggressive, she’s conscientious, she has traditional values, and she’s family-focused. That gives you a much more in-depth picture about Deepa and about your target audience and this generalized audience, right?

So in psychology, there is a widely used personality assessment that’s the acronym OCEAN. So openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. And these don’t all sound like positive things, but they are not all technically negative. So the idea here is that psychologists try to plot each person on a scale for each one of these five elements. It’s a scale of maybe zero to 100 so they’re either more open or less open, more conscientious or less conscientious, more extroverted or more introverted, more agreeable or less agreeable, maybe more cool, calm and collected, versus more neurotic. So it’s a scale from zero to 100 and we all fall somewhere different for each of these, we all exist on the scale. And this is what creates the beginning of a psychographic profile for your users. Now let me be clear. Demographics can absolutely help you shape your overall communication strategy. So that’s in terms of channels, in terms of resources, timelines, those types of things.

But psychographics actually help shape the messages that you’re sending. It’s what to say and how you should say it, right? So your demographics can tell you the how. It’s the where and the when to intercept the message. So maybe you’ve identified someone in your target audience who is a mother, she has a master’s degree and she makes a certain amount of money per year. Those are the great demographics that can help you intercept the message. But psychographics will tell you the what. It speaks to the personality and it helps shape how people respond to you. Again, with psychographics, you’re building and you’re creating a more comprehensive profile of your audiences.

So whenever we define psychographics, sometimes our clients come and ask us, “Well, how can we start to gather psychographics?” And the truth is building psychographics is a high touch process. So the very first thing that we always say is to conduct in-person interviews. Sit down with current or prospective users and ask a ton of questions. The pro tip here is to use silence to dig deep. In psychology and interpersonal communication and public speaking for humans, silence feels very uncomfortable, even just a few seconds of silence. So when you ask someone a question one-on-one, live in that extra moment of two to three seconds of silence. It’s uncomfortable, it feels uncomfortable, but I always say the first person to speak loses. And you want the other person to speak first because that’s, when they fill the silence, that’s when you get the real insights from them. That’s how they start to tell you what they think about you, what they think about themselves, even why they do what they do. That’s very, very helpful for you.

Secondly, is to utilize focus groups. Now focus groups are great for comparing options. So maybe you’re a nonprofit that is rolling out a new fundraising campaign or an ad campaign. Focus groups can help you understand how a group of people compare different ideas. The pro tip here is to use questionnaires. Always start with questionnaires. Unfortunately, where you see a lot in focus groups is that there is a very vocal minority of people that want to kind of commandeer and direct the conversation. If you use questionnaires on the front end, you can kind of understand the dispositions and the affect for the things that you’re talking about for the people that you’re in the focus group with. So you don’t have that vocal minority. You already kind of know what to expect.

And lastly, is to use surveys. And surveys are the most scalable option on this list. And on mightycitizen.com, if you go to mightycitizen.com/insights, we have some great resources for designing, executing, and improving your surveys. But the point I want to make is that you should invest in your surveys because they are low investment in time and energy, but for a lot of great data from your audiences. The thing about surveys is that questions are absolutely critical. Question writing is key. One thing we say at Mighty Citizen all the time is that bad questions don’t stink. Bad questions don’t stink. And what we mean when we say that is when you’re writing these questions, often you have a bias built-in and that one bad question, even if it’s just one, can skew your data entirely. If you’re used to writing questions, if you understand the science and psychology behind questions, as you do it more, you’ll have less of a problem with it. But a lot of people don’t understand that there’s bias built into a lot of the questions that we ask in surveys, and again, that can skew your data.

Really, there’s bias that can be built in to all three of these things, but it’s something that you need to be cognizant of. And I know that we are generalizing here a little bit. We’re generalizing audiences and yes, all of your users are unique and they have their own agency and they’re all incredibly good looking. But the point here that I want to make is that you want to build out some generalized personas that you can really start to understand how to start messaging and building optimal messaging that they will respond to in the way that you want, which is ultimately building engagement.

The two ways we think. So there are two ways that we think, and I want to make a point by having you do some math. So the very first equation I want you to do it is simple 2 times 2 and I’ll give you about a couple of seconds. Now, the next equation, it’s just as simple, right, 23 times 17. No cheating, no calculators, don’t pull out your phones. Now, the 2 times 2 is what we call the System 1 way of thinking. And the System 1 way of thinking is unconscious thought. When I asked you to do 23 by 17, that’s a System 2 way of thinking. It’s more deliberate, right? 2 times 2 is something that’s just ingrained in all of us. It’s something that we just know. It’s easy to answer. We don’t have to think about it. But when I presented you with the more complex one that you don’t have ingrained, that’s something you have to actually think about and that’s when you enter that System 2, the more deliberate thought.

These are the two ways that our minds process information. Now, Daniel Kahneman and his partner, Amos Tversky shaped this idea in their behavior, economic, and psychological testing throughout the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s. They came up with these two systems of thinking because we do fall into System 1 all the time, and I will talk a little bit more about that. And for those curious, 23 by 17 is 391.

Now, that System 1 way of thinking is fast, it’s intuitive, it’s emotional, and it’s unconscious. System 1, like I said, does the vast majority of our thinking. Now, System 2, it’s slower, it’s more deliberate. Whenever you say, “Let me think about it,” you’re using that System 2 level of thinking. It’s logical and it’s conscious. So as communicators, we want to be in System 1 for our audiences most of the time. That’s where we want our audiences living. System 1 is where they’re not really thinking. It’s more emotional, right?

That’s where most of the thinking happens as well as the emotional self. We want to reach the emotional self to persuade them to engage with us. So a great example from Kahneman is commuting to work versus parallel parking. So think about sometimes whenever you are driving to work or driving to somewhere that you frequent quite often. You make that drive all the time. Have you ever pulled in to your parking spot and then looked up and thought, “How did I get here? I don’t even remember driving here. I just appeared here.” That happens all the time because you’re in your System 1 level of thinking. You don’t have to think deliberately about getting to a place that you go all the time.

Now say you pull up to work, you pull up to a spot that you frequent and your normal parking spot is gone. The only parking spot that you can find is the dreaded parallel park. That’s when you have to enter your System 2 level of thinking. And the System 2, again, it’s slower, deliberate, it’s logical, it’s conscious. You have to think about parallel parking, the way that you’re angling yourself so you don’t want to hit either car in front or behind you. That’s just System 2 level of thinking. And in System 2, people grow wary and skeptical. When you want your feelers, again, you want your users, excuse me, feeling and trusting in that System 1 level of thinking.

So what does this have to do with marketing and communications? Well, again, Kahneman coined the System 1 and System 2 terminology and what he’s talking about here is the cognitive laziness. This quote, “If there are several ways of achieving the same goal, people will eventually gravitate to the least demanding course of action. Laziness is built deep into our nature.” That’s a quote from his book “Thinking, Fast and Slow.” And he’s being a little cheeky here, but what he’s talking about again is cognitive laziness. So our brains don’t want to have to think about everything it takes a drive to work, right? You’re not thinking about having your foot on the gas or your blinker on, those things are offloaded into that System 1 level of thinking. It’s a shortcut. It’s human nature. Our brains naturally do that so we don’t have to work as hard.

As often as you can, you want to tap into System 1 which connects to the emotional and feeling self as opposed to System 2 which, again, is that rational, skeptical, and doubting self. And again, what we’re talking about here is cognitive ease. It’s the measure of how easy it is for our brains to process information and your job as a communicator and a marketer is to implement cognitive ease at every chance you get. Because without cognitive ease, your users aren’t likely to feel anything at all.

One great example I’ll give you is right here. This is the admittedly former homepage of the Montana Association of Counties and it’s a great example of the opposite of cognitive ease, which is cognitive strain. You’ll really notice the visual clutter, which is primarily contributing to that cognitive strain, that there’s at least three navigation systems, three navigation menus as you can see here, the font styling is needlessly sophisticated and it’s still bland and lifeless and this website hurts its users’ brains.

It’s not engaging you in the way that you feel like you should be engaged whenever you visit the website. As an example, in the real world psychological studies have found that shares in companies with easier to pronounce names perform better than those with difficult to pronounce names. In online marketing, any possible elements that can simplify a website should be used, whether that’s infographics, intuitive web design, easy to read font, so on, and so forth.

So let’s break this down a little bit further. What are the types of things that produce cognitive strain? First and foremost, you have poor writing. If the user has to read a sentence that you wrote twice, you are in trouble. Your writing should be top-notch and as short as necessary to do the job, period.

Secondly, if you have too many choices. Every piece of content should have a single call to action. So if you put up a page on your website or send out a marketing email, a donor letter, a campaign, any of those things, make it simple and linear to a single call to action. You don’t want one piece of content, one message, having the user do a million different things. Make it a more linear, understandable process.

The third one, having too many steps. If you’re asking the user to do something, it should be short. So if you have a donation page for your nonprofit, for example, I should be able to go to your donation page and donate within two, maybe three mouse clicks and, of course, putting in the required information. If it’s anything more than that, you’re going to turn off your users because then it becomes work and that’s not where you want your users to be thinking.

The last one is unfamiliar design. Do not try to reinvent the wheel. And this is a really important point I want to make. Your users know how to interact with the internet. They have expectations, they know the patterns, they’ve been using the internet probably just as long as you have. So if you’re pushing the envelope, which isn’t a bad thing, you, you should push the envelope sometimes I’d argue, but don’t do it all at once. You want to do it iteratively, right? Just a little bit at a time. How you communicate to your users is as important, if not more important, than what you’re communicating. Presenting the best content, if you had the best content in the world and you’re presenting it in a System 2 way, it’s not going to be effective and you’re really doing yourself a disservice.

Now, here’s an example of what I think is a great looking website that’s a good example of cognitive ease. And this is for the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, and you can see it feels like a website. It’s what you expect. It’s what the brain is expecting whenever you go onto your website. There’s a clear call to action, it’s simple, structured, and it’s compelling.

So what are the types of things that contribute to cognitive ease, especially on your website? Well, the very first thing is that you want to keep donor communications as simple as possible, so say the same thing over and over. Use the same exact message. I think that one speaks for itself.

Secondly, you want to offload tasks from prospective donors whenever possible. So if you don’t need the donor to do something, don’t ask them to. So if you have a form that they need to fill out, don’t ask them for extraneous information that you’re not even going to use because, again, it becomes work for the user and it’ll turn them off and you’re risking engagement.

The third one is to give information more than you ask for it. Provide value more often than you’re requesting it. Not only is this a great tip just to provide cognitive ease, but I think this is the foundation of content marketing and marketing communications. This is really the entire premise. You should be providing value as often as you can. There are a certain amount of touches that you have to have on an individual before they will start to engage with your organization. Those need to be positive, valuable touches. So if you have value to offer, you need to be putting out that content and making it accessible and direct that messaging to the right people. Again, using those psychographics to be able to get that engagement over time.

And then, lastly, you want to create more structure online and in fundraising emails. So people consume content differently online than off. So for example, make sure your site map and your pages have a clear repeatable structure. Online, we have to re-enforce these patterns. It’s all in an attempt to keep people feeling and not thinking too hard.

So let’s talk about heuristics. Now I’ll go ahead and just define this for you. A heuristic is any approach to problem-solving, learning or discovery that employs a practical method not guaranteed to be optimal, but sufficient for the immediate goals. Now you’re probably thinking, “Jarrett, you just spent however many minutes telling me that the information I present needs to make sense to my users and you just gave me this definition for a weird word that I still don’t even really know what it means.” Well, I’ll make it simple for you. A heuristic is nothing more than a rule of thumb.

It’s all the ways that the human brain takes shortcuts to escape System 2 and, again, live in that System 1. Imagine having to deliberately think about every single thing that you encounter on a day to day basis. That’s exhausting. So your brain automatically, like I said, offloads things onto that System 1 level of thinking. So these heuristics are these rules of thumbs that you can start to employ to bolster your communication and especially your fundraising.

There’s probably over 100 heuristics that have been identified and I’m going to be sharing a few that are relevant to marketing and communications. And these heuristics are powerful and, again, you can employ them to bolster your fundraising. We have a heuristic cheat sheet that we have at Mighty Citizen. I will have the link where you can access that later, but that will list all of these for your convenience.

So I want to start with affect. People make decisions quickly by bringing their emotional response into play. Now, affect is a very common term in psychology. I mean, it really just means the underlying feelings, thoughts, moods, the disposition of an individual about something, a certain topic. So you might see a psychological study that is X, Y, and Z versus affect. So they’re trying to test something against the way an individual already feels about it and their underlying disposition.

So here’s an example of affect and the emotions that we’re talking about. So this is an ad from The Truth Initiative. It’s an anti-teen spoken campaign, you’ve probably heard of them, they’ve been around for over two decades and they use very, very emotional advertisements. So they had a ton of commercials and was a very popular old commercial, a famous, I should say, where they pull up a van to the Philip Morris headquarters, Philip Morris, tobacco manufacturer, big tobacco, and they start loading body bags onto the steps of their headquarters and telling them how many people their products kill every single day. That’s clearly very emotional, very provocative messaging, right?

So around the same time that The Truth Initiative campaign started, another campaign launched called “Think. Don’t Smoke.” And this one is much more traditional, not emotional, not provocative, not old by any means, but it appealed to logic. For example, if you smoke, it’ll cost you X amount of money over the years, and these diseases, and you’ll have bad breath, whatever it is. Now, this ad was actually run by Philip Morris. Hoodwinked. Bamboozled again. I know. They were forced to run these ads after losing some high-profile lawsuits in the ’90s. interesting, right?

So let’s look at the results from these campaigns. Teens exposed to only the emotional campaign from The Truth Initiative on the left were 66% less likely just smoke in their lifetimes. Now, that’s a crazy conversion rate in terms of marketing.

Now, if I were to ask you what conversion rate you thought the right campaign from Philip Morris produced, what would you say? I’ll give you a few seconds in the chat box. The answers are everywhere. Well, here it is. The teens exposed to only the campaign on the right weren’t 36% less likely to smoke. They were 36% more likely to smoke. That’s crazy to think about. And it’s only because Philip Morris used that very logical campaign. It appealed to the System 2 way of thinking. It wasn’t emotional. And that’s a really powerful fact to think about in terms of your marketing communications.

So how can you use the affect heuristic? Well, the bottom line is you want to use emotion. We’re appealing to emotional creatures, right? We are emotional creatures and that’s something that you should acknowledge as a marketer or a communicator. We tell stories. We recognize humanity. That’s the way to do it. So these are the four human emotions. We have mad, sad, glad, and then for the sake of rhyming, afraid, if you will. And every other emotion is a combination of any of these, right? Fear and anger are the best ways to persuade people. And I’m not at all saying to stir up fear and anger in your audiences, but what I am saying is that people have actual fears. And if your organization can do anything to calm those fears, then you should acknowledge that. And I want you to think about that, especially in the context of everything going on right now.

The next heuristic is called anchoring. This is one of my favorite ones. It’s the human tendency to rely too heavily on the first piece of information offered, which is the anchor, when making decisions. So I want to talk you through a little social experiment that came from Kahneman that we’ve actually done in person at a conference. So we had a room full of people. We split them down in the middle and we gave them two sets of questionnaires. Questionnaire one, questionnaire A, I should say is right in front of you, two questions. The first one, “Is the tallest Redwood tree in California, more or less than 150 feet?” So we had them answer that and then we asked them, “What’s your best estimate of how tall the tallest Redwood tree in California is?” And we collected their answers there.

So then we asked the second half of the room, the questionnaire B, the same two questions just with a different metric, different data in that first one. We used 810 feet as opposed to the 150 and then we asked them the same question too. What’s your best estimate of how tall the tallest Redwood tree in California is? So the results from the social experiment, in version A people thought it was 225 feet. In version B, they thought it was 1,125 feet. That’s a crazy difference, right? The disparity there was insane and it’s only because we changed that initial number that we anchored them on, that gave them the perception of how they should answer it. Right? For those of you curious the actual answer is 380 feet.

So how can you employ that in marketing and communication? This anchoring effect? Well, here’s a great example and this is actually Zoom. On the left side, you can see that they are offering a monthly subscription of $14.99 per month billed monthly, right? Then on the right side, you see an annual subscription at $1249 a month billed annually. So $149.90 billed annually, almost $150 annually with the green sticker that says “Save $30,” presenting it as the more valuable option.

This is a classic tactic used by software firms that exploits the anchoring bias. So obviously, it’s far better for Zoom to get an annual payment of $149.90 from users upfront than a single $14.99 payment every month, right? But when it displays the annual price at $12.49 after the monthly price, it seems like people are saving money by signing up for a year, even though they’re paying $134.51 more and tying themselves into a yearlong contract.

So in terms of maybe nonprofits, you can use this for donations, associations use it for membership packages, whatever it might look like. You may sometimes even create a dummy offer specifically to anchor the user at a high number. So the lower number, it seems even lower by comparison. So it’s highest to lowest versus lowest to highest for your donation amount. You start with the highest amount listed first. It works really well for this effect.

Now, a heuristic that’s related to anchoring, but I would say maybe it’s a cousin of anchoring is in this example I want to show you. So this is a real study that was done in a movie theater on their popcorn. They had a small option for $6 and a large option for double that, $12. So most would go for the small. But when you introduce a third option, this medium at $10.50 they will get the large and they’re not even going to consider the small, and that’s because you’re offsetting that median, right?

The medium price is only a buck fifty cheaper than large. So people see that and they think I’m going to get the large because that is too good of a value. And that ladies and gentlemen, is what we call the decoy effect. People tend to change their preferences between two options when presented with a third option that is asymmetrical. So in the case of maybe your donation form, your first two options can be close, but you want to make less of a difference on the top end so it seems more reasonable. So if I were an organization, if I were a nonprofit, for example, trying to raise money, I would make my online donation form a $10 option with a $40 and $50 because of difference at the top end is much smaller and you can adjust this and just keep an eye on the data and adjust as you need to.

So here’s a question for you before we move any further. I’ll give you a technological invention, a breakthrough that will increase the country’s wealth. It will make us more efficient and productive and make our lives much more fun. The only thing I want in return is that you let me swoop in every year, take 40,000 people at random, and kill them. So here’s my question. Do you take the deal? I’ll give you a few seconds.

So overwhelmingly people are saying no, right? And someone said, “We already have, haven’t we?” And the answer there is yes, you have. If you own a car, you’ve already taken this deal. Unfortunately, car accidents kill 40,000 Americans every single year. But if I presented the car first and then asked the question, there would be far more of you willing to take the deal. And that is called framing. So the framing effect, our choices are influenced by the way they are framed through different wordings, settings, and situations.

So here’s an example of that. And I think framing is really the most powerful heuristic and it happens all the time and we’re unaware of it 99% of the time because we do it unintentionally. It’s like using, “remember to” versus “forget.” There’s a negative versus a positive in framing as well and I’ll get to that. So here’s a classic example. If I were to tell you this background was black, you’d see two faces looking at each other, right? But if I told you the background was white, you might see this vase or candelabrum him or whatever that might be. A candlestick holder. That’s an example of framing. It just depends on the information you were presented with, right?

So notice a difference between these. Taxes are a social burden versus taxes are an investment in society. Politicians and policymakers have teams of people that help them with the language that they use around their policy, around things like taxes because that affects the public response to them, right? It really is that’s serious. It’s that crucial.

Drug addiction is a law and order problem versus drug addiction is a public health problem. We are facing a crisis versus we are facing a challenge. Buying beef that is 80% lean versus buying beef that is 20% fat. The words that we use really, really matter and the way that we frame it really, really matters.

So here’s an example of that you might be able to employ. So maybe you’re putting on an event. Let’s say you’re having an event with an early bird special. This was an experiment that was done in Europe. So in message A, if you register after June 15th, you will pay $50 more for the event as opposed to version B, if you registered before June 15th, you will pay $50 less for the event. Now the results in both of these, when it was framed as a negative 92% of people registered early, as opposed to when it was framed as a positive, only 67% of people registered early.

The point I want to make here is that this is something that you can employ tomorrow, right? And you can, again, start to measure the data that you see and the way that people are responding to you and then you can tweak it. You can implement this tomorrow if you wanted to. This is an example of loss aversion. Humans feel bad about a loss more than they feel good about an equivalent gain, right? So losing $50 feels worse than saving $50 feels good. So try out this language for your registration and see what happens. And again, just tweak it along as you go.

With the peak-end rule, another heuristic, this is how people judge an experience based on an average of how they felt at the peak and at the end. So here’s an example. There’s a sensitive procedure that two men have to undergo, it’s a colonoscopy, and researchers conducted this experiment. The patients came to the doctor for the colonoscopy, it lasted briefly with patient A but rated high on the pain intensity scale as you can see on the left. It was short and painful. Meanwhile, patient B underwent a much longer colonoscopy but the spikes and pain intensity were relatively low and the procedure ended on a less painful note. These patients remembered it as a relatively harmless experience. So my question to you is which patient remembered the procedure as more painful? I’ll give you a few seconds. Looking like a mixed bag. Lots of As, lots of Bs.

Well, the answer is that patient B is more likely to return for this procedure the next year because his memory of it is softened compared to patient A. The point I want to make here is talking about the experiencing self versus remembering self. With the peak-end rule. you can see with patient B you started lower on the pain intensity scale. Even though it went for longer, he ended lower as well. So he didn’t remember it as intensive an experience. He’s more likely to return. The experiencing self versus remembering self. A website, for example, your user isn’t going to go to your website and have a bad experience no matter how short it is on both ends and want to return, right? You’re going to lose the engagement that way. The remembering self is way more powerful and influential than the experiencing self. And you should absolutely remember that whenever you’re employing your digital marketing communications.

So how do you use the peak-end rule? The fact is you need to be designing amazing experiences at the end. And I mean designing these experiences, so going above and beyond. Here’s an example. This company called Chewy, it’s a pet supplies company, you can get your dog food from them on a subscription. So they’ll send you your dog food maybe once a month if you need it. So there was a woman who used Chewy for her dog who unfortunately passed away, and she had already had her subscription set up to be getting some food that month, and so she called the customer service to ask them if they could cancel that subscription and refund her because, unfortunately, her dog passed away. Not only did Chewy fulfill that, they did that for her, they refunded with her, but they sent her flowers and a nice card at the end of the experience.

They designed that into the process and they made it something special and real. Right? And I’ll tell you guys shamelessly, I recently adopted a three-month-old puppy, her name is Juniper, she’s great, and this made a customer out of me. Knowing this, I went straight to Chewy for my supplies for my dog food because I know that this is part of their experience, right? Find those things as marketers and communicate those. It makes all the difference.

We have this great on-demand webinar. Again, mightycitizen.com/tools, it’s called Digital Envy. It has some great examples of how nonprofits have gotten creative with thanking their donors, and that can be a huge help to you. Again, design these experiences and be intentional about it and go above and beyond. It makes all the difference for your users. And that URL again, was mightycitizen.com/tools.

So before I get into the next heuristic, I’m going to take a quick break to wash my hands as I should. And while I do that, in the chat box, I want you to complete the following word. And I’ll be right back.

All right, I’m back. We can pretend that I sang the alphabet twice. And most of you I see are saying soap. Some variations in there, but a lot of you are saying, S-O-U-P. And that’s because of the heuristic called priming. You know, if I said that I needed to take a bite of my lunch real quick, you might’ve said S-O-U-P, soup, right? Let me present you with this word, banana. I’ll present you with a second word, vomit. Now, your System 1 way of thinking is constantly making associations between words and images, feelings and actions, ideas, and memories. When you see these two words, your System 1 responds automatically. Your heart rate jumped, your skin prickled, and your sweat glands were activated. Your mind automatically assumed a temporal sequence and causal connection between banana and vomit. You’re experiencing a temporary aversion to bananas, and you’re now unusually ready to recognize and respond to objects and concepts associated with each word.

So maybe later on after this webinar, you might see something yellow and you might think, “Oh, I’m queasy. I’ve been hoodwinked again. Jarrett got me,” because of priming. Your System 1 also recognized the surprise in seeing both of these words together, just because they usually aren’t. Again, the heuristic here is called priming. When people are exposed to one stimulus, it affects how they respond to another stimulus.

Words create associations so choose them wisely. And I made this point before in other heuristics, but I want to make it again. There’s a difference between “you” versus “we,” a difference between “join the giving club” versus “join the giving society,” “donation form” versus “donate today.” And images matter too. And before I get into this point about images, I just want to say this even has implication even just past marketing communication, just in our day to day lives, the way that we communicate interpersonally and to the people around us, the words that we use can really alter and shape the conversations and the way that we’re talking to each other.

It’s a really powerful concept when you really think about it. So when you employ that in your marketing and communications, it’s really powerful. And again, images matter too. And here’s an example of that. So looking at this website for the Challenger School, you’d think it a school for very young kids, or even strictly kids who of Asian descent, right? However, The Challenger School goes up to the eighth grade and it accepts kids from anywhere. The question here is does The Challenger School know that their website gives this impression and perhaps their specific strategy is to try to recruit more young children, especially those of Asian descent. Maybe they have an Asian-American community that they want to service. In that case, the website does a good job of delivering that message, right? The images that you use matter just as much as a word, and they can really help shape and control the narrative. That’s where you want to be.

Before we into the next heuristic, one more activity for you. So this is Sarah. Sarah loves to listen to New Age music and she reads her horoscope every single day. In her spare time, she enjoys yoga, aromatherapy, and attending a local spirituality group. So my question to you is this. Is Sarah a school teacher, is she a life coach, or is she a holistic healer? I’ll give you a few seconds. Again, is she a school teacher, a life coach, or a holistic healer?

So overwhelmingly, I’m seeing holistic healer and life coach. Some school teacher. So typically, only a third of people say that she’s a teacher, but statistically, there are more school teachers than there are holistic healers and life coaches. It felt like she belonged to one of those groups, even though statistically, she was more likely to be a school teacher. And that’s because you were primed with the details and jumped to a conclusion. There are more teachers than the other two so the numbers affect how we judge probability. And that is an example of representativeness people judge the probability of an event by finding a comparable known event and assuming that their probabilities will be similar. That’s a fancy way of saying we judge a book by the cover, right? As humans, we do truly judge books by their covers. So how can you use representativeness in your marketing and communications?

Well, first of all, you want to show users what they expect to see. Again, your users have expectations. They understand the pattern. So use that. And part of that is, the second point, using their vocabulary, not yours. As organizations, we often have this industry jargon, this internal jargon that we try to impose on all of our users and our audiences, but that’s not productive. And it will do yourself a disservice. Use their vocabulary. Again, they have expectations, they know the pattern. So meet them there, right where they’re at.

And then lastly, when introducing something new, whether that’s a product, a service, a resource, you want to compare it to something that is already known. And sometimes, again, there’s bias there so you might need unbiased third-party research to determine user behavior.

So summing it all up for you all, first, invest resources that segment your prospective donors by their psychographics, and then use those insights to craft your messages. We talked about psychographics, first demographics, and how psychographics can help take you a little bit further using those personality assessments, doing surveys, focus groups, one-on-one interviews, use those things and then craft your messages with them. Humans think using two systems, we talked about how Kahneman coined these two systems of thinking. System 1 is where we want people feeling with their emotions as opposed to System 2, where it’s more deliberate and they’re more skeptical of us. And lastly, we want to experiment with heuristics and your communications and discover what moves the needle. Again, all of these heuristics, you could probably employ tomorrow, but find out what is happening whenever you do actually employ any of these. You want to look at the data to be able to make some informed decisions about what you want to tweak and want to add and what you might want to take away.

Before we move into questions I just want to say that you can get these slides and the heuristic cheat sheet and some other resources that I mentioned, at mightycitizen.com/hackthemind. We also have a plethora of other tools and templates for free to download at mightycitizen.com/tools. And I think right now I’ll turn it over to Steven for some questions. Thank you all.

Steven: Cool. Thanks, Jarrett. I told you all of the geniuses are over there. Jarrett, I got every single question wrong starting with the spinning dancing lady, so . . .

Jarrett: You’ve been hoodwinked.

Steven: Good job. My brain hurts. I’ll never eat bananas again. This is transformative. There’s a huge thunderstorm running through Indy right now so if I suddenly disappear because the power went out, that’s why. But we’ll try to hang out here for 10 more minutes. We got some time for questions so if you haven’t asked a question yet, do it now because obviously, Jarrett is a wealth of knowledge. Jarrett, I saw a lot of people ask this question during your anchoring section. If it’s better to kind of anchor with the positive versus the negative, could you kind of maybe expand on that if you’ve seen one work more than others or does it depend?

Jarrett: It depends. It depends on the message that you’re giving out. So for the example that I used positive is better than negative, but it really depends on what you’re trying to get your user to do. Right? So again, that’s why it’s really important to maybe look at other examples and also to read the data and understand what’s happening after you employ any of these heuristics so you can make those adjustments

Steven: Cool. Going back to psychographics, are there example questions or surveys that you can maybe recommend to people to kind of dig out what those perhaps personas are for people? Is it an electronic survey? Is it, you know, talking to them one-on-one? What have you seen work to really define those if people don’t know what those personas are right now.

Jarrett: Right. So again, I think that largely depends on your organization, but the three methods that I suggest that you employ that I went over is again, the one-on-one interviews I think are very effective, but it depends on your organization. If you only have the resources to be able to do a survey and invest the time in there, that’s a scalable option, like I said, To be able the older to reach a lot of people to start to get some of that data. Maybe you’re employing some of those personality assessments that I talked about, that OCEAN assessment, trying to find out how people are on a scale from zero to 100. And those are the things that can start to form your psychographics. So wherever you can dump the resources into one-on-one interviews, focus groups, surveys, I actually recommend you do what you can right now to start to build a psychographics.

Steven: Just saw an interesting question here from Jessica, I’m kind of curious your take on this. She’s at an environmental organization and, excuse me, they have a reputation of being really kind of data-driven, level-headed, for organizations like that, what’s the best way to kind of introduce emotion into the communications? Should they, or should they sort of maintain maybe what that brand already has in people’s minds, if that makes sense?

Jarrett: Yeah. I think especially for an environmental group, if you have the data, that’s a really great foundation to start to transform that into emotional messaging, right? So you can figure out, I always say, find the stories within your organizations, find the story that you can float that will make people want to engage with you. The things that will start to tug at people’s hearts so they can see the work that you’re doing. If you have data that suggests X, Y, and Z, turn that into whatever message you can to start to have people emotionally respond to it. Especially if you have the data already there, it’s a pretty easy transition to have. So if you have this reputation of being data-driven, that’s great and you can absolutely rely on the data. And I’m sure that’s very important for an organization that focuses on the environment, but you can absolutely turn that and find ways to turn that into emotional messaging. And that’s where you want people to be because, again, that’s where people are in that System 1 level of thinking.

Steven: Cool. Lots of folks are wondering how they can do those one-on-one meetings, interviews, talking to folks, is it, you know, some like this, a Zoom meeting, an okay replacement? Can it be done over the phone? You know, with all of the social distancing stuff going on. What do you think there?

Jarrett: I think by all means necessary. Ideally, were face to face because that is when the best of communication happens. But we’re in some very extenuating circumstances right now and you do what you can with the resources that you have right now to be able to do that. So if it is virtual, if it is on a Zoom call, if you’re organizing a focus group virtually, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s not going to skew your data per se, I don’t think so at least, but ideally, these things are in person, but even with surveys, those aren’t in person and that’s, again, a more scalable option. So you can really just find out what works depending on what resources your organization has right now.

Steven: Cool. You mentioned segmentation, which is one of my favorite words, and my antennas immediately went up. Could you kind of maybe pull on that thread? It seems like there would be different versions of your communications based on the personas that you sort of develop and maybe segment that way. What do those things kind of look like? Are they wildly different communications? Are they subtly different in between? What do you kind of have to say about the segmentation?

Jarrett: That’s a great question. I’d hate to generalize and say that . . . I’m tempted to say, I want to say that they are not vastly different, but I think it depends on your audience. It depends on what you find out about the psychographic data of your audiences. So one message may be able to be tweaked just a little bit to apply to another segment, but it might have to be overhauled entirely, especially if you’re trying to fundraise and you’re trying to appeal to people’s emotions. They might just be different depending on the psychographics. There’s a lot that goes into that and that’s a very psychological part of it all. So it really just depends on the psychographics of your audiences.

Steven: Cool. You mentioned the power of repetition in communications. Is there ever a limit to that? A couple of people are kind of wondering if maybe communications will get stale after a certain amount of time of repetition. What’s what do you kind of see as the lifespan of repeating messages?

Jarrett: Yeah, I think that, and that’s something that we even struggle here at Mighty Citizen. As a marketing manager, I write a lot of content, whether that’s articles, you know, we work on case studies where we’re trying to really empower these mission-driven organizations that we work with, with, again, this value. But the biggest messages that you have, the things that your organization, your bread and butter, the things that you rely on, that should be what we call cornerstone content. Those are the things that kind of exists that people know you for. And then everything else you’re writing falls under an umbrella of that. You’re really breaking up this content into different pieces, in different formats too. And we talk a lot about the pyramid approach. We have some resources on that on mightycitizen.com/tools that dive way deep into that. But anyone who’s interested, please email me. I love talking about that stuff, I love talking about content strategy, but to answer the question directly, I don’t think you can really, oversaturate the message if you’re doing it correctly and there is a way to do it.

Steven: Maybe a good way to end, Jarrett, is tell folks, what are you reading? A couple of folks were interested in maybe some books on the subject or things that they can check out. Is there something that really drew you into this subject, or maybe expounds on what you’re talking about here in interesting ways? What’s on your, kind of, reading list?

Jarrett: Yeah, well, full disclosure, I actually originally went to school for psychology. I wanted to be a psychiatrist . . .

Steven: I thought so.

Jarrett: . . . and ended up in communications and public relations and marketing. And I ended up making psychology just a minor. So I just have a vested interest in it, but I’m not reading anything in particular about psychology, but I am actually reading, “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman. And my boss actually just gave me this great book that she loves called “Bird by Bird” and I . . .

Steven: Oh, yeah, Anne Lamott? Is that the one?

Jarrett: Yeah, Anne Lamott.

Steven: That’s a good one.

Jarrett: She loves that book. I actually had never heard of it before, but she sent it to me to read during this time that we’re all working from home. So I’m reading both of those in tandem right now. Those are two great books. I really enjoy them. They’ve highly recommended to me. So those are the ones that I’m reading.

Steven: Cool. Well, it’s almost 3:00. I want to give you the last word. I know we got this slide on the screen, but we didn’t get to all the questions. Would you be willing to answer questions maybe offline if people reach out to you? I know that sounds . . .

Jarrett: Absolutely. Again, you can email me at any time, jway@mightycitizen.com. I want to thank everyone for taking the time to go over this with me today. I love this presentation. I hope it’s beneficial to you. And I just want to end by saying thank all of you for the work that you do. I think now more than ever, it is so, so important. And thank you, Steven, for having me. It’s been a pleasure.

Steven: Oh, anytime. Anyone from Mighty Citizen is welcome as far as I’m concerned. This was cool. Really interesting one, got my gears turning for sure. So I enjoy just sitting here listening to it and also people getting the answer wrong like I did. That made me feel better about myself. But there were actually a lot of people who were onto what you were doing. I told you the Bloomerang crew they’re a sharp group, so . . . Thanks to all of you.

Jarrett: They figured it out.

Steven: Yeah. All of you, I know you’re busy. It’s a busy time of year. I mean, geez, you’re probably doing GivingTuesday follow-up and all that’s been going on. So thanks for being here. I really appreciate seeing a full room. Like I said at the top, I will send the recording and the slides later on this afternoon so just be on the lookout for that. We’ve also got some great webinars coming up next week. Just visit the Bloomerang website, just click Freebies, you’ll see our webinar schedule. Really cool sessions coming up. Totally free. Totally educational. Just like this one. So hopefully we’ll see you again on another session. So we will call it a day there. Like I said, look for the recording and slides from me in just a couple hours and hope you have a good rest of your Thursday and a good weekend. Stay safe, stay healthy, and we’ll talk to you again soon. Bye now.

Author information

Kristen Hay

Kristen Hay

Marketing Manager at Bloomerang

Kristen Hay is the Marketing Manager at Bloomerang. She also serves as the Director of Communications for PRSA’s Hoosier chapter.

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