Happy New Year! I hope it’s full of happiness for you, your organisations and your supporters.
 
We are all pressed for time, so I will keep this blog short. But isn’t it curious that, when there are already not enough hours in the day, certain non-essential activities still get more than their fair share of attention. Procrastinating on social media sites is a great example…
 
This year, my New Year’s Resolution is to spend less time on Facebook and more time losing weight…hence my trip to the gym this morning and a rather tasteless salad for lunch. The problem is that I know the motivation I’ve got now won’t last. Fast forward a few months and there’s a high probability that my personal trainer will have forgotten my name while the pizza delivery man will know it well.
 
It’s not just motivation to lose weight that goes in peaks and troughs. It is also true of the motivation to donate and support charities. Motivation is a wave and fundraisers need to know how to harness its power.
 
Many of the techniques that digital platforms use to draw us in and keep us returning can be traced to Dr BJ Fogg, founder of the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford University. Fogg is a leading expert in behaviour design, exploring how digital platforms and products can be designed to change our behaviour. His ‘Behaviour Model’ shows the role of motivation in changing behaviour.
 
Fogg’s Behaviour Model is based on the following principles:
  • Behaviours and actions are the result of three things coming together at the same time - motivation, ability and a trigger
  • Motivation is not constant. It is a wave
  • There is a direct link between the difficulty of a task and the motivation needed to complete it (you can see a graph showing this relationship here - http://www.behaviormodel.org/)
  • It is generally easier to increase ability than it is to increase motivation
 
“So far, so simple”, you might think. After all, it seems obvious that a difficult task requires a high level of motivation. However, the relationship between motivation and ability has three important implications for fundraisers that are worth considering.
 
The first may seem obvious - you need to make it as easy as possible to make a donation. The more hoops you ask a donor to jump through, the more motivation they need to take action. Fogg defines ability as “a function of a person’s scarcest resource”. For example, for those perceiving themselves to be short of time a donation form that requires you to create an account and login is likely to be too much effort. Think of every question and every click as another step towards your donor’s motivational cliff edge. Test your donation mechanisms . Are they as simple as they could be? What information do you really need? What information could be collected at a later date? Do you really need a donor to register or log in? Are your suggested donation levels appropriate for your potential donors? Does the need to find an envelope and a stamp make your potential donor less able to return your form? What can you do to make it easier for your donor to take action?
 
The second implication is, to some extent, the inverse of the first one. However, it is often forgotten. While highly motivated people can be nudged to complete difficult actions, the Fogg Behaviour Model shows that those with lower levels of motivation can still be encouraged to act, as long as you make the target behaviour easy enough. (This explains why some people can be motivated to sign an online petition but will never convert to donors – the ease of signing a petition requires far less ability than making a financial gift and therefore requires less motivation.)
 
An example of this in practice can be seen at a museum that charges for entry. The entry charge is not popular and conversations with visitors suggest that motivation to support is lower once they have had to pay. However, the donation box near the ticket office takes more money than the other boxes across the site. The reason is (quite literally) simple - it is easier for donors to put their change in the box than it is to put it back in their wallet. Take the time to identify those opportunities when ability is high, even if motivation is low. A well-placed ask (or trigger) could have surprising results.
 
Finally, make sure you are capitalising on those fleeting moments of high motivation. This doesn’t just mean asking a donor to do something requiring higher ability, such as making a larger donation. Smart fundraisers will use this opportunity to get donors to take actions that will make future behaviour easier. For my weight loss resolution, one suggestion for times of high motivation would be to book in and pay for PT sessions for the next few months. This would structure my future behaviour while also reducing the possible barrier to ability of me running out of money at the end of the month. For fundraisers, one example is getting to donors to sign up for a direct debit – making future gifts much easier and therefore requiring less motivation.
 
Whatever behaviour you have resolved to change this year, I wish you the very best of luck in making it stick!