Three ways to make use of Social Proof

Do you think the amount of money given by commuters to a street musician would go up if an accomplice walked past in front of other passers-by, putting money in the hat?

The researchers, like most fundraisers I describe this experiment to, predicted that more people will now put money in the hat. But no-one I have ever asked this question to has correctly predicted the extent to which the income would go up.

The answer is, an extraordinary eight times more money gets put in the hat.

How does this idea help relationship fundraisers?

Psychologists refer to this surprisingly powerful influence factor as Social Proof. As Robert Cialdini points out, the passers-by may not have told their friends that a major factor in the action they took was that someone else had done the same thing. When asked, the passers-by always say they decided to give because they liked the song, or were feeling generous etc.

When I started out in fundraising, the main ways I tried to get better at my job were through common sense. For example I would try to better understanding the donor and I would tell them things that they might care about to do with our cause.  And I’m not saying that these fundamentals are not important, because clearly they are very important.

But it did not occur to me then to proactively see mention other trusts / companies / donors as a way to help the person I was talking to, want to take action. A key factor that has increased my results is that I have become more aware of the broad range of factors that nudge the decisions we all make every day.

The Fundraiser Who Wanted More

A big reason I wrote my new book The Fundraiser Who Wanted More, is to share the many things that help you raise money, which are not so much common sense, as uncommon sense. They are techniques that make our job far easier, but which most people do not take advantage of.

Here are just three ideas for understanding the power of Social Proof can increase support for the causes you care about:

  • More major donors – Attendees on the Major Gifts Mastery Programme raise more money because they take more focussed action and they dramatically sharpen their influencing skills. For example, the next time you organise a gala dinner or ‘get to know  us’ event for major donors, it helps to put dis-proportionate effort into finding an existing supporter(s) willing to give a brief speech, telling the audience that they have made a donation. (Note, the fact that they give is more important than their reason for giving).
  • Increased sponsorship through events – When you do a sponsored run or trek, think very carefully about who you approach first with your form. Getting one of your more generous friends to write their sponsorship amount near the top of the form makes it more likely that subsequent sponsors will be as generous as they can.
  • Keener corporates – If you are a corporate fundraiser, proactively collect stories of existing partners who derive specific, clear benefit from partnering with you (eg increase footfall in the shop by 8%). The most successful corporate fundraisers I have interviewed over the last decade do this – it is a major factor in their ability to reveal a hunger on the part of the company to pursue rather than wait to be pursued.

Need to increase corporate or high value fundraising income? Find out how the Corporate Partnerships and Major Gifts Mastery Programmes would help