Last week I heard Katy Perry‘s “Teenage Dream” for the first time. The song is basically a few lines of lyrics repeated over and over. And it topped the charts in popularity.
Listening to Katy Perry got me thinking about fundraising.
Her song reminded me of the Black Eyed Peas‘ “I Got a Feeling” : simple lyrics repeated over and over. It’s really catchy. (If you’re not entirely convinced that it’s the same one or two lines repeated over and over, with random phrases thrown in, check out this parody on YouTube: I Got a Feeling – that this owl is really creepy!)
I could go on. Anyone out there remember Weird Al’s “This Song’s Just Six Words Long“? Another great parody on the lack of lyrics in popular songs. The thing is, it works. People remember the lyrics and the songs are wildly popular.
This week, why not look at your fundraising appeals and your approaches to donors. Are you over doing it? Are you overwhelming donors with facts and data? Trying to firehose them with information?
Why not try to rework your solicitations by singing from the same sheet as Katy Perry, the Black Eyed Peas, and Weird Al:
Remember my post about the Cheez-it Syndrome? Studies show that giving too many options causes us to shut down rather than make a decision. Giving fewer choices encourages us to act.
While you probably won’t be encouraging your donors to have sex with you like Katy Perry or to “take it off” like the Black Eyed Peas, where in your cause can you find emotion? At a recent conference, Tom Ahern reminded us that one emotional story outperforms either statistics alone or statistics and a story. He suggested we invite donors to a fight. What are you fighting for? What fight are you inviting them to join? Find the driving emotion and tell the story.
Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. And do it again
Donors’ lives don’t revolve around our organization. They don’t live and breath our cause. So we need to keep repeating the same old message points, letting them take root and grow. Ad mogul David Ogilvy used to say people needed at least seven impressions before a message takes root. Changing our messaging simply because we’re bored with it is like digging up a seed we’ve planted to see if it’s growing. We’ll kill the plant. Rather than killing the message, water it and let it grow.
Remember, if we want to raise money, our job isn’t to give our donors an intellectually stimulating dissertation. Our job is to move our donors to action: the action of making a gift.
Let’s commit to making sure our messaging is helping them take that action, not hindering it.
Good piece, Marc – thank you!
One thing I do wonder about is drawing the line between “this message just didn’t work, time to change it” and “this message just hasn’t been repeated enough”.
Any thoughts on that?
GREAT question. I’d love to hear other people’s responses.
An initial thought is that you could keep shopping it around with donors and prospects. Get their feedback.
But it’s a really good question. Let’s see what smarter people say in the comments!
There’s a great old advertising saying that comes to mind, that speaks to the importance of repetition in marketing & advertising…
it perfectly illustrates the importance of repetition in advertising…
?I don?t know who you are.
I don?t know your company.
I don?t know your company?s product.
I don?t know what your company stands for.
I don?t know your company?s customers.
I don?t know your company?s record.
I don?t know your company?s reputation.
Now ? what was it you wanted to sell me??
Wow, David! What a saying!
Great thoughts Marc! We get tired of our message because we hear it all the time, but our donors haven’t actually heard it yet :-).
Mary – to your question. If you have a large enough audience, it should be fairly easy to test messages against each other to see which results in a higher response rate. A focus group with people representative of your primary donor base would also provide valuable feedback. One of the most difficult lessons I had to learn in fundraising was that our donors don’t think the same way we do – that’s why getting feedback and testing messages / packages is so important.
Kristen: Thank you! Great point about testing.
Mary: See, I told you smarter people would chime in! 🙂
Thanks, Kristen. I think with our relatively small numbers I may have to rely more on direct donor feedback – I doubt I have enough for anything statistically meaningful… So, I will seek more feedback!
I want to echo your advice for narrowing in on a few options. My arena of fundraising, charity auctions, is a great example of a need to provide only a few options for giving. During an appeal, an organization can quickly dash out support by moving into too many levels of giving. You are so correct, “Giving fewer choices encourages us to act.”