Friday, August 20, 2010

Decision paralysis: harming good fundraising

I often get funny looks when talking about 'single focus works best'.

In other words, in any fundraising piece, talk about one thing, and one thing really bloody well. Don't stray from the original message. We've tested this over time and proven it to be the most effective way to maximize return.

For Torontonians you'll be familiar with the Steamwhistle beer brand, a local micro brewery that pledges to do one thing, really, really well. And yes, their Pilsner is damned good.

I blogged about this at the start of last year, in keeping it singularly focused for best results.

I'm reading a terrific book at the moment, Switch, by the Heath brothers, made famous by the brilliant business book, Made to Stick.

In it they talk about the notion of decision paralysis. In other words, when presented with lots of choices we often behave irrationally. But as humans.

Like the gourmet food store who set up a table where customers could sample jams for free. One day the table has 6 jams. The next day 24. More customers huddled round the table with 24 jams. But when it came time to buy, they're frozen. Can't make a call. Those who were presented with less options were 10 times more likely to buy.

Decision paralysis creeps in.

Back to fundraising.

You spend 3 pages in a DM piece reiterating the importance and need for ongoing monthly gifts. You build a brilliant case, explain the long term impact on your beneficiaries. You ask for a gift 5 times. You laser the personalized ask on the response form.

And then you pop a cash option on the reverse.

"Yikes, what the hell do you want me to do?"

Decision paralysis creeps in, again.

This isn't some two-bit theory. We've tested this and shown that single focus works best. It makes sense, remember like Steamwhistle, do one thing, really, really well.

Actually, I think it's time for a beer.


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