Ask for 'strange amounts' and use red donate buttons, says US fundraising consultant

Speaking at the International Fundraising Congress in the Netherlands, Suzanne Nowers of the agency Nexus Direct says focus groups found asks for odd sums tended to increase donations

Red donate buttons: 'an action colour'
Red donate buttons: 'an action colour'

Charity fundraisers should always ask for "strange amounts" from donors and use red donate buttons on their websites, according to the US-based fundraising consultant Suzanne Nowers.

Speaking yesterday at a session of the International Fundraising Congress in the Netherlands, Nowers, who is chief executive of the US-based fundraising agency Nexus Direct, said that asking for an unconventional sum from donors – such as $17 rather than $10 or $20 – was an effective way to get them to increase their donations, according to focus groups in multiple countries.

"Using a strange amount will always improve your results," she said. "I can show you repeated focus groups in many countries where this is true. It slows donors’ reading down. But don’t use decimal points on a landing page because that is odd."

She said that when the Humane Society of America asked a subset of its donors to give $22, the number of gifts received by the charity increased by 50 per cent when compared with a control group that was asked for more conventional sums.

Nowers said tests focusing on which colour was the best for charities’ "donate" buttons on their websites had shown that red buttons encouraged more donations, which she said was likely to be because it was an "action colour".

For the return envelopes used in charities’ direct mail campaigns, the statistical data indicated that pink was the best colour, she said.

Nowers said that calling supporters on their birthdays with "happy birthday" messages in the month before launching a fundraising appeal was a "genius" idea that was non-invasive and highly effective.

She said she recently received a pre-recorded birthday message from the actor Michael J Fox on behalf of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, which prompted her to give a donation.

Nowers said charities that ran petitions should be cautious about allowing people to fill in their details automatically through Facebook if donations were their primary motivation.

She said that although it was easier and quicker for supporters to click on "log in via Facebook", this meant charities lost out on contact details for communicating with them in future.

She said that conversion rates were typically lower for people who had signed in through Facebook than for those who had entered their details manually.

Nowers urged all charities to test their campaigns more and then conduct post-mortems at the end of every quarter to reflect on what was working and what was not.

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