Want More Donations? Hold Off On Thank Yous

Our web development team does a lot of group reading. We believe that learning new things is a part of our continuous improvement process, and that it's an essential drive for our common culture. We read books on a wide spectrum of topics: art, science, personal development, just to name a few. Last year we read a personal development book called The Willpower Instinct, by Kelly McGonigal, which focuses on willpower and human behavior. 

One concept McGonigal mentions in the book is called moral licensing, which is when we give ourselves permission to do something "bad" because we've been "good." Examples include: "I've been so good about my diet, so I can have a cookie," or "I've been saved so much by not buying coffee all week, so I should buy a new pair of shoes." 

This same effect works on your donors too: people who remember a time when they acted generously give 60% less money to a charitable request than others who have not remembered. If at the moment of donation we recall that we were good before, our minds automatically reacts by saying, “I was good enough in the past, no need to be better!”

Here are few practical tips to help counter-act moral licensing in your donors through better web design:

  1. Keep your donation page fresh. This will make the donors feel like he or she is having a new each time he/she visits your donation page. We recommend a CSS-based donation page that changes its appearance for each campaign, within your organization's branding standards.
  2. Hold off on your thank yous. At least, until the donor has already made a new donation. A “thank you for your past contribution” is a great message, but it should not be the step before starting the donation process. A better message could be to which extent his/her new contribution will positively affect your cause. Try to shift the focus of the donor from “how I was great in the past” to “I must help create a better future”.
  3. Use a donation thermometer. Having a clear goal and remaining amount for this campaign gives donors a sense of urgency. By making this a prominent feature on your donation page, you can create a sense of urgency that shifts the mind toward donating right away regardless of all past actions.

No ceiling on innovation here! What are other ways you could apply this concept to your website to increase donations?  

Looking for more ways to boost conversions on your website? Check out See3's Conversion Booster, which can help your organization easily increase opt-ins, donations and engagement with a simple piece of code. 

Author: Mark Roth
  • Donations
  • Fundraising
  • Nonprofits