6 ways to leverage social proof in fundraising

Donors are interested in what other donors are doing. That’s why social proof — telling them what others are up to — is often a powerful tool in fundraising. Especially for influence the amounts donors choose to give.

But a recent study reported at the Neuromarketing Blog — New Study Reveals Fundraising Risk — reveals a potential downside to social proof:

Social proof, showing what other people are doing, is a nearly certain way to boost your nonprofit donations. If you show that many others are donating, you will convert more new donors. But a new study shows there’s a risk of lowering donation amounts if you use social proof the wrong way.

But here’s what the new study noted: Social proof can meaningfully lower average gift. What do we do with this seemingly conflicting information? The Neuromarketing blog has some thoughts:

  1. Don’t use social proof. Only use it when it is likely to improve your results. So if average gifts are low, why mention it at all?
  2. Use broader social proof. If you’re in a campaign or context that generates social proof for low gifts, widen your focus and look beyond that context for a number that resonates.
  3. Use qualitative social proof. It’s not always about numbers. Testimonials from donors can also provide a powerful form of social proof.
  4. Promote the desired donation level. Just say, “Many people give this much” about a number you want people to give at.
  5. Urgency and social proof. Something like “57 donors gave $50 in the last week.” This adds a time element to your social proof.
  6. Test, Test, Test Your Social Proof. This is a complex area that can give surprising results. Test to make sure your idea accomplishes what it’s meant to without serious unintended consequences.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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