Getting more people to give to charity = getting people to change their behaviour. That is, it’s a marketing job. The same as getting you to buy Coke rather than Pepsi, or to buy stilton outside Christmas, to buy a Rolex at all, to join a club, to read a newspaper.
Giving is particularly tough to market because people can survive perfectly well without it. It’s like a discretionary purchase.
What then can we learn from how discretionary purchases are marketed?
First, make it desirable. Giving, and any other discretionary purchase, has to provide some benefit sufficiently substantial that people will part with money despite not needing to. Fun, humour, aspiration, opportunity to look cool, being ‘in the know’, social acceptability, convenience, getting one up, protecting your family, interesting experiences, buying into a dream… Red Bull gives you wings. You can’t beat the feeling. A crown for every achievement. Because I’m worth it. Sch…you know who. For successful living.
If something is desirable enough, people will do it – even if it’s difficult or expensive. The more desirable it is, the more difficulty or expense they’ll tolerate. People camp out overnight to get a new iPad2. Diamonds command huge price despite zero practical value and an indistinguishable cheaper substitute.
Some analyses about increasing giving make a fundamental error in solely addressing barriers. Perhaps removing barriers is necessary but it’s certainly not sufficient. No practical barriers prevent me from robbing my elderly neighbour or eating loads of cake. That’s not why I don’t do them: the reason I don’t do them is because they’re not remotely desirable to me. We also need a desirable carrot.
Actually, maybe barriers don’t matter at all. Coca Cola recently increased sales by over 1000% (yep, you read that right) by making purchases harder. Its vending machine was so high that a person couldn’t use it alone and needed a friend’s help. Social experiences are highly desirable.
Second, people don’t know why they do things or why they don’t or what would make them do things. As Henry Ford knew, punters have no idea what would make them part with money: “If I’d asked them, they’d have said a faster horse.” Focus group mums told cake companies that they wanted baking to take less time, so the companies made cake-mix: which the mums didn’t buy because that felt like cheating. You simply can’t rely on people to understand and report on why they don’t do things.
Third, segment the market. Whereas some of us want complexity, to be mavericks, to change the system, and think of ourselves as global citizens, others value simplicity, conforming, preserving the status quo and see ourselves primarily as citizens of our local community. That is, desirable experiences vary substantially between segments.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs can be used to powerfully segment people according to the fundamental psychological need most pressing in them. Giving behaviour is consistent within each segment, but varies markedly between the segments: including whether people give, how they give, motivations for giving, interest in volunteering and the causes they select [evidenced in regular surveys comprising over 1000 questions with more than 8000 people, replicated internationally].
Philanthro-wonks beware: we are concentrated in one segment so need to learn to engage better people dissimilar from ourselves.
Also beware because few philanthro-wonks have backgrounds in marketing. We tend to be from more analytical backgrounds, so inaccurately assume that people are pretty rational.
How do you give yours?
The way to boost giving is to market it – like any other discretionary purchase. Make people aware at a relevant time, make it desirable in ways that are relevant to a variety of segments, and give people something to say about it to their mates afterwards.
Overpriced champagne, anyone?