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Donor behavior is driven through catalytic interactions

Are we even aware of what motivates people to take action? Do we know what causes someone to change their behavior? How can we influence people’s behavior? There are two questions they must answer: is it worth it to change my behavior, and if not, why should I try?

To overcome this kind of resistance, we often use verbal persuasion. Another approach involves using personal experiences give people an opportunity to see what your organization is doing first-hand. This helps people connect with the mission and vision of the organization and helps overcome resistance to giving.

You can also persuade behavior through vicarious experiences that come when we tell stories about what is happening through an organization. This is why storytelling is so important to nonprofits.

Many times persuasion stops here. If motivation AND ability are attended to on three levels (personal, social and structural), behavior can be successfully influenced. If we don’t attend to these two questions at a personal level, people are not motivated to give or don’t know how to give. On a social level, peer pressure and team support can help address the motivation and ability to give. At the structural level, we need to consider incentives and the environment as way to motivate behavior. We want to motivate giving behavior. By bringing additional levels of motivation–over and above persuasion–donors will naturally be driven deeper in their relationship with us.

Level Motivation(Is it worth it?) Ability(Can it be done?)
• Impact communicated in terms people care about
• Pictures and people impacted are used to tell the story – “humanize” the data
• Donors know what is expected and how they can support the effort successfully
• Complex challenges are broken into smaller, achievable, understandable tasks
• Formal leadership has communicated support and are involved
• Opinion leaders are identified; trust is built, and they are engaged in the project
• Leadership, experts, communication and fundraising – Team-based strategies
• Information is complete (collateral,  results, etc.)
• Giving is recognized and appreciated in advance outcomes
• Officers are incented to do the right things
• Create proximity between the donor, the organization/leadership, and constituents
• Environment reflects project priorities – you “see it” and “feel it” when you walk around

A catalytic interaction is what is really important to move relationships forward. One person who attended the webinar wanted to know more about what a catalytic interaction looked like. A catalyst, strictly seeking, is a substance that changes the rate of a chemical reaction and is not consumed in that reaction itself. A catalytic interaction is one that speeds and deepens your relationship with a donor. In addition, it serves and sustains the long-term nature of the reaction, instead of getting consumed in the process of getting just a one-time gift.

The interaction itself is often a well-timed phone call or meeting, but it could also be an engaging video or compelling blog post. What usually makes it catalytic is that the timing is perfect, the communication is tailored, and the request for support is personalized. That is why integrated strategies are so important. A phone call following up on an important appeal letter, with messaging that built on last week’s email newsletter, is just the type of catalytic interaction that leads a donor up the pyramid.

Ongoing, two-way communication that supports the donor relationship is important, but catalytic contacts and interactions are tools that drive relationships forward far more quickly than more passive forms of interaction.