You need to keep three words in mind if you want powerful fundraising results and excited donors.
I’ve been rereading a bunch of David Ogilvy’s work. He was a classic “ad guy” from the good old days of advertising and often credited as the father of modern advertising.
There’s a great story that is attributed to Ogilvy (but probably really wasn’t him, but more on that later).
Ogilvy is walking down the sidewalk one day and he spots a blind man panhandling. The panhandler has a cardboard sign that reads “I am blind, please help.”
But his donation cup was empty.
Ogilvy thinks a minute then he adds three words to the sign.
When Ogilvy comes back the next day, the man’s cup is overflowing with coins and bills.
Those three words changed everything.
What were the three words? “It is spring. . .”
The sign now reads: “It is spring. I am blind. Please help.”
Those three words created sympathy and action. Why did it work? The man’s blindness became more tragic because people walking past could imagine (and see) what the man was missing. The poignancy was magnified.
Why did it work?
Robert Cialdini, an Arizona State University scholar and one of the biggies in the social science of persuasion calls this the “contrast principle.” His concept is that you and I understand something best when it is in comparison to something else rather than one its own.
In the story, contrast created impact and boosted the man’s income. (I really doubt the story actually happened. You can also find the story attributed to the French poet Jacques Prevert among others. I’ll leave it with Oglivy, since it’s a story to illustrate a point on persuasion, which Oglivy would love. And it gives me the three words I needed).
The three words to improve your fundraising? Not “It is spring!”
The three words to improve your fundraising are “create a contrast.”
Without contrast, impact is reduced.
Without contrast, persuasion is tougher.
Without contrast, donors won’t act.
What contrasts can you remind your donors about?
What before and afters can you illustrate?
What did the world (or the neighborhood or life) look like before?
That’s how you persuade and how you improve your fundraising. What about you? Had you heard the story before? I’d love to know what you think.