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Seven top tips for marketers and fundraisers to encourage non-profit donations

Date:03 December 2019
The cause marketing and charity donation workshop in Groningen.
The cause marketing and charity donation workshop in Groningen.

What is the most effective way that charities and companies can work together to encourage donations to non-profit organizations? A group of scholars and fundraising practitioners gathered in Groningen to consider this question at a cause marketing and charity donation workshop. We asked participants and speakers to tell us their number one tip for running a cause marketing/charity campaign. Here's what they told us:

Marijke Leliveld, Marketing department, University of Groningen

My number one tip for running a cause marketing/charity campaign is to use pictures of happy-looking people in need, rather than sad-looking people. Compared to happy faces, sad faces will make people feel more as they are manipulated into buying or donating in a way they don't think is appropriate. This decreases sales and donations, but also results in a more negative attitude towards the company or charity using the sad face in their campaigns.

Jan Schmitz, Economics department, Radboud University Nijmegen

To me the most important thing is to be able to identify the effectiveness of charity campaigns by means of good research. For this, randomly selecting recipients of campaign mailings/content into treatment and control group is key. In addition, researchers and practitioners should keep in mind that they need a sample size which is sufficiently large to identify effects.

Jo Cutler, Psychology department, University of Sussex

My tip for a campaign would be to give potential supporters something concrete that they personally can achieve by getting involved. Ideally, this should be something that people can easily and vividly imagine, so it connects with their emotions. A festive example could be a hot Christmas dinner, somewhere warm and friendly, for a person who is currently sleeping on the streets and would otherwise be left cold, hungry and on their own.

Remco Kouwenhoven, Director Alumni relations and Fundraising, Director Ubbo Emmius Fonds

Consider it a commercial project: what is your product, what is your target audience, and which modes of communication will you use to get your message to the intended recipient.

Tammo Bijmolt, Marketing department, University of Groningen

Be clear and transparent in the objectives and design of the campaign to increase its effectiveness: Better "If you buy this particular product, we donate 25 cents to Greenpeace" than "If you buy something, we donate to a good cause".

Rene Bekkers, Director of the Center for Philanthropic Studies, Vrije Universiteit (VU) Amsterdam

My number one tip is: evaluate the success of your campaign not only by counting the additional euros coming in during the campaign, but from a life time value perspective.

Stephan Dickert, Marketing department, Queen Mary University of London, and Psychology department, University of Klagenfurt.

For charity campaigns it is important to make people actually care about the issue. People are bombarded with information about causes and charitable giving opportunities and often just turn off emotionally and cognitively. There are several ways in which a charitable giving campaign can touch them, though. This includes appeals that lead to emotional responses like empathy or warm glow, but also personal responsibility and the impression that one can indeed make an impact and experience some efficacy. I would therefore advise charity campaigns to highlight those factors.

Background to the workshop

Companies and charities often collaborate in an effort to engage in corporate responsibility (company) and to have an increase in donations (charity). To understand how these collaborations work best for both the company as well as the charity it is necessary to better understand the motivations of people to buy at cause marketing investing companies, but also why people engage in moral behavior like donating to charities in the first place. These questions are studied in the field of psychology, marketing, as well as behavioral economics. Each of these disciplines take their own perspectives and use their own methods, yet the topic of research is the same. The aim of the workshop was therefore to bring together scholars and practitioners working on these topics. This aim was fully met, and speakers and attendees were very positive about the day.

“The workshop was a great opportunity to learn about how different disciplines study giving behavior, both from the perspective of the charities, as well as the donors or consumers. It is truly inspiring that there are so many researchers who care about increasing the amount of donations, and consequently, about making the world a better place.” Marta K. Wronska,University of Groningen.

We received a workshop grant from IAREP, as well as financial support of the Centre for PPE, University Groningen. Given the enthusiasm of the speakers and attendees, we are looking into possibilities to organize such an event again in the future. We hope we can get even more interaction between practitioners and scholars.

For more information about research into cause marketing at the Faculty of Economics and Business at the University of Groningen, contact Marijke Leliveld m.c.leliveld