Prof Says Make It Real To Improve Fundraising

unh royWEST HAVEN: Subroto Roy, Professor of Marketing at the University of New Haven, in a paper coauthored with K Sudhir, the James L Frank Professor of Marketing at Yale University and Mathew Cherian CEO of HelpAge, India, wrote in INFORMS Journal of Marketing Science that small changes in the wording of a fundraising letter can increase donations by more than 300 percent.

Roy says “generate sympathy for your charity’s cause with the right words and visuals,” adding,  “the study relied on principles of psychology.” 

The five-year study was done on live fundraising campaigns. Roy explained the format, “it used a “cold” list of 200,000 potential donors and a “warm” list of more than 100,000 past donors of HelpAge, one of India’s most well-respected charities that serves the elderly.”

Roy outlined the structure of the study saying “authors varied the content of their fundraising letter, randomly among recipients, leveraging ideas from the psychology of sympathy,” then the number of donors and the amount of donations were compared in response to the different letters.

Roy said the findings were “surprising.”

On the cold donor list, donations went up by 110 percent if the beneficiary was a named individual compared to an unnamed group; by 55 percent if the beneficiary belonged to the same religion as the donor, by 33 percent if the beneficiary fell into poverty versus being described as poor with an undescribed past, and 66 percent if the annual donation was framed in monthly versus daily amounts.

When a letter used all of the tactics, there was a 300 percent increase in donations.

For past donors from the warm list, the percentage increase in donations was smaller, but the incremental dollar amounts raised were equally impressive.

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