3 subtle ways to enhance your nonprofit’s ask string.

Dec 8, 2022

Have you ever come up with an amazing appeal package but didn’t get the results you were expecting? Well, your nonprofit’s ask string might be to blame!

You should be rewarded for creating communications that feel personal, tell a donor-centric story, and explain the impact of every donation.

But too many nonprofits leave money on the table because they aren’t aware of the science behind making an effective ask.

FREE eBOOK: Ask strings and the science of securing support.

Did you know much of the human decision-making process is a subconscious effort? It’s true! And understanding how the mind works and adjusting your asks accordingly is an important part of fundraising.

So, let’s explore how to approach your asks from a psychological perspective.

Rooting your asks in the science of securing support will allow you to test and gather the data you need to raise more money, improve your appeals, and change the world!

Overwhelming donors with too many options makes them less likely to give at all.

1. Keep it simple.

Whether you realize it or not, you’ve probably been a victim of choice overload. Less is more when it comes to spur-of-the-moment decisions.

Have you ever felt a little hungry after lunch and impulsively stopped at the corner store for a candy bar to get through the next hour or two? But once you were standing in the isle you may have found the number of choices overwhelming and decided you weren’t as hungry as you thought.

It’s easier NOT to make a decision and go about your day.

The truth is you are still just as hungry. But you were faced with too many options, which made coming to a decision more trouble than it was worth. Your subconscious mind took over and rationalized it was easier not to decide at all.

It’s a phenomenon known as choice overload.

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Being faced with too many options for what should be a simple decision causes us to become overwhelmed. If we can’t quickly determine the best choice, we rationalize it’s better not to choose. This is a cognitive process that we’re all susceptible to. But it is hard to realize when it is happening.

That moment of hesitation while looking at our options gives the brain enough time to reconsider.

In our candy bar example, we decided we were not that hungry. In fundraising, this gives donors time to think, “Maybe I should hold off. I have to pay some bills soon,” or “The amount I want to give is the lowest choice on here. They will be fine without my gift.”

So, we recommend using no more than three giving options in your nonprofit’s ask string to avoid choice overload. If you want to include more options, leave a space for donors to write in their own gift amount!

READ MORE: Making your nonprofit’s call-to-action more attractive.

Draw a donor's eye to the target ask by placing it in the center of three giving options.

2. Use the center-stage effect.

So, now that you’ve limited the number of asks you present to a given donor, how do you help them determine that your target ask is the best fit for them?

It’s natural for us to pay the most attention to what’s in the middle. So, use this to guide your donors to that ideal gift!

Our eyes are drawn to the middle option first. But studies show the longer we look at something, the more we like it. And the reverse is true as well. The more we like something, the more we will look!

This is known as a feedback loop – a quirk in the human brain that fundraisers can use to their advantage. So, make sure your ideal ask is in the middle, and draw attention to it any way you can.

Use colored buttons on webpages and emails for each gift value on your nonprofit’s ask string. Make your middle choice a brighter shade than the other two. We see faster than our brains can comprehend.

So, draw donors’ eyes where you want them to go. Their brain, heart, and wallet will follow!

The Goldilocks principle also supports the middle option. We all know how the story goes. Goldilocks always found the papa bear’s things too big, while the baby bear’s were too small, and mama bear’s were just right.

Supporting your ideal ask with an option that seems too high and one that looks too small helps the donor determine the middle gift amount is “juuuuusssst right!”

READ MORE: Applying data-driven ask strings in your appeals.

Keep impact-per-dollar comparisons more focused on your mission than material items.

3. Make it feel real.

There are many other ways to communicate what you want donors to do subconsciously. You just need to convince them they already know what to do!

Showing donors the impact of every donation is a great way to elevate your nonprofit’s ask string. If you’re running a campaign for a specific program or initiative, you can share exactly how specific gift amounts further the cause.

So, connect dollar amounts to something more tangible. For example, asks for a youth organization’s back-to-school initiative might include:

  • $50 can provide notebooks and pencils for an entire class.
  • $100 can buy five backpacks for students who need them.
  • $150 could buy new dry-erase boards for three classrooms.

However, this approach may be best suited for specific projects. At amplifi, we believe in securing support and building relationships with like-minded donors who see eye-to-eye and support your mission.

You want donors to buy in and support a cause that is important to them, not check off items on a shopping list.

In our example, notebooks, backpacks, and dry erase boards are just some ways the organization furthers its mission of helping underserved students get a good education.

So, make sure you connect the dots with a mission-focused approach!

READ MORE: The right way to compare dollars to impact.

It’s not a simple science.

Strategies rooted in psychology are a great way to start thinking differently about your asks. And these tips can serve as an excellent foundation as you improve your nonprofit’s ask strings.

But knowing how to work off the human brain is just the beginning. These strategies can be far more effective if you back them with a data-driven approach that’s specific to your organization. So, as you apply these strategies, track your results and note any trends so you’re ready to take the next step.

And if you’re ready for a deeper dive, click here to check out our eBook, Ask Strings: The science of securing support!

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FREE eBook: Ask strings and the science of securing support..