In which we look at some great examples of digital psychology in action from the non-profit sector.

I've included examples from charities including the RSPB, RNLI, Dog's Trust and more.

1. Cognitive ease

Simply reducing the perceived effort of interacting with your content can be a powerful nudge to engagement in itself.

Here Donor Tools emphasises the speed of getting up and running in its call-to-action button:

Donor Tools

Here the BBC's Children in Need shop does all the hard work for you by simplifying postage & packaging costs:

BBC Children in Need

(And if the charity ended up quids in taking this one-size-fits-all approach, who’s going to begrudge Pudsy?)

And here the RSPB makes it clear that helping to support its goal of habitat preservation needn’t be a massive slog either – in fact, you don’t even need a garden:

2. Social proof

We are social animals, hard-wired to follow the crowd.

As Robert Cialdini puts it in Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion: ‘People see an action as more appropriate when others are doing it.’

With its slogan ‘Join the movement’, sustainable transport charity Sustrans is all about communal action.

Its ‘Sponsor a mile’ campaign makes good use of personal stories and emotional hooks to encourage more people to support the 14,000 miles of the National Cycle Network:

National Cycle Network

Over in the online shop of the National Museum Wales, meanwhile, there’s a handy ‘Most viewed’ category for present-buyers short of inspiration:

In the Shelter shop, course descriptions are supported by testimonials which, even if anonymous, remain effective because of the well-chosen quotes and job titles:

Shelter

3. Objection-handling

Online, we have more need of trust and confidence in the organisations we’re dealing with than in face-to-face interactions.

So we’re always checking sites for signs of credibility and answers to any objections or anxieties we may have, for instance about data security or financial probity.

The Energy Saving Trust’s email newsletter sign-up, for instance, makes a big (and reassuring) point about how easy it is to unsubscribe before you’ve even signed up: 

The National Theatre of Scotland, meanwhile, uses a nice tone of voice and a bit of transparency to explain to users why it needs all the data it’s asking for:

Another common objection in the non-profit space is: How much of my money actually goes to the good cause?

Here’s a couple of answers, from the RNLI and the RSPB:

RNLI

4. Scarcity, loss aversion & time-limited offers

The fear of missing out has been known about as a powerful trigger to consumer conversion in advertising for a century or more.

People's desire to avoid loss turns out to be much more powerful than the desire to seek gain, and we are capable of behaving quite irrationally to sate that urge.

The YHA’s email sign-up uses a nice tone to imply that only email subscribers get to hear about the best deals and discounts:

YHA 

And its availability calendar is a powerful incentive to make your booking while there's still time:

YHA

And over at the Shelter Shop, a little message in urgent red advises you of places running out on that training course you’re considering:


Shelter

5. Anchoring

The phenomenon of anchoring rests on the fact that our perceptions are often defined by context.

£500 sounds pretty pricey for a handbag if you’re in Primark... until you walk into Gucci, and it suddenly seems like a snip. The context sets the norm.

A classic technique to encourage higher spend or donation is by playing with the range of options available – one very expensive option can make others look like good value.

The classic example is the wine menu: adding a single highly-priced bottle at the end of the list has been found to increase revenue overall, as diners often order the second most expensive (and typically the most profitable) bottle, which now looks like a good buy in comparison.

Setting a minimum suggested donation amount can similarly drive up average donations.

In this example, the values start at £20. If I want to give less than that, I have to manually enter my measly amount in the free box.  

 Cancer Research UK

In this example, from Care Link, the design makes it pretty clear which level of service is right for me:  

And back at the YHA, anchoring makes direct debit look like a real no-brainer:

YHA

6. Reciprocity

We all like to get something in return for our efforts. Free gifts, samples, discounts, content etc are all common ways to do this.

In the non-profit context, showing what your donation will tangibly buy is another:

nfp 

In exchange for your donation, the British Red Cross offers lots of useful content informed by its obvious expertise in the areas of first aid and emergency care:

British Red Cross

But perhaps the best exponent of the reciprocity nudge is the RNLI, which reinforces the message that your donations are helping to support its work on almost every page:

The focus is admirably persistent. Even eating and drinking in the RNLI College restaurant, for instance, is helping to save lives at sea:

 

7. Internal consistency (foot in the door)

Once we make a choice or take a stand, we tend to behave consistently with that commitment.

This is what door-to-door salespeople rely on: they ask a series of subtly qualified questions, (starting with, for instance, ‘Do you agree that double-glazing would add to the value and comfort of your property?’) and once you’ve said yes to one, it becomes harder to say no to the next.

Petitions are another example – agreeing to take part sets us up to make a bigger commitment further down the line.

In this series of screenshots, Shelter piques our interest with a local angle (‘What does the housing crisis look like where you live?’), and leads us through a carefully reasoned argument and into an invitation to add your signature on the issue: 

Shelter

Shelter

Shelter

Shelter

Shelter

Shelter

Shelter

8. Guilt

These examples speak for themselves:

Shelter 

Dogs Trust

9. Affinity

When we like an organisation, we’re more likely to respond to it.

We like ones that make us laugh, that do things that align with our values, and that we feel personally connected to.

The more familiar we are with a brand, the more we like it too.

RHS 

10. Authority

We trust people with perceived knowledge, so making the most of your experts can be a powerful nudge.

Well-chosen stats – which we perceive as indices of expertise – convey authority too.

So, too, can content from relevant experts, and recommendations from trusted sources and influencers.

Expertise and authority are very evident on the Cancer Research UK site:

Cancer Research UK

And here are some impressive numbers from the Dog’s Trust:

Dogs Trust

Have you worked on an award-worthy charity marketing campaign this year?

If so, make sure to enter Econsultancy’s Masters of Marketing Awards before June 17.

Dan Brotzel

Published 13 June, 2016 by Dan Brotzel

Dan Brotzel is Content Director at Sticky Content, part of the Press Association, and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

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