Most of us are pretty passionate about "choice." We prefer restaurants where we can choose from a variety of foods. We love department stores with a wide array of items. Parents like to be able to choose the best public school for their child, regardless of where they live. Much of the healthcare debate in this country has been framed as a discussion about "choice" -- of your healthcare provider, your insurance company and the procedures you can have. But too much choice can be paralyzing. The other day, I visited the yarn shop intending to buy yarn for a new project. My choices were already limited -- I needed a specific weight and fiber yarn for the project -- so I thought it would be easy. I quickly found a yarn that would work…and then I was stumped.
The colors! There were so many (this photo shows only half of what was available!) that I could not decide. I stared at the yarn for several minutes and ended up leaving without buying anything.
Are your donors facing this same dilemma when they go to your website or receive a direct mail package?
The only choice you want your donors to make is how much to give. Now, of course, many people are going to choose not to give at all, but you don't want to make that easy for them. Offering them too many choices can make even the most determined donors opt out of giving altogether.
I've seen reply forms and landing pages that ask donors to choose between a straight gift, a monthly gift, a tribute gift, and a bequest and a multi-year gift…and then go on to detail other choices they can make, such as submitting a matching gift form from their employer, signing up for a newsletter, or joining another giving circle.
If making a donation to your organization requires more paperwork than getting a bank loan, people won't bother.
But we still love choice, right? Offering no choice at all makes people uncomfortable. Nobody likes to be told what to do, and most of us want to feel like we have some control over the transactions we make, even with our charities.
So do offer some choices. A gift string with a variety of amounts and a spot for a donor to write in their own amount is a great way to offer choice without turning a donor off.
Frame your Ask as a choice: Would you rather live in a world where children like Marcus have enough to eat? There's only one answer to that question -- YES, I want Marcus to get enough to eat! -- but it still feels like a choice, and one we can feel good about making. After all, what kind of monster would say "no?"
And yes, I LOVE monthly giving programs and high-level giving circles and bequests and all the rest. But I don't love throwing all those choices at your donor at once. Give them the space they need to consider these options by offering them one at a time.
Choice can be a powerful ally in fundraising, but it can easily become overwhelming. Take a look at your website and direct mail and make sure that at each stage, you're offering your donors the one choice that matters: to give.
And if you have any suggestions on the color of yarn I should buy, please feel free to weigh in!