This week, I've been working on an engagement piece for donors that includes a questionnaire.
I've written here before, with scepticism, about what charities learn from sending tick box style surveys to donors. So when working on a piece like this, I'm always grateful for a little help from our in-house researcher, Amber. She advises on how many questions to ask and how to formulate them in a way that gets a meaningful answer.
But this week – hopefully for the first and last time in my life – I've had Lord Ashcroft on my mind.
I've been thinking about the YouGov poll he commissioned, which phrased the question about Scottish independence in three ways.
1. Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?
2. Do you agree or disagree that Scotland should be an independent country?
3. Should Scotland become an independent country, or should it remain part of the United Kingdom?
If you don't know the results of the poll, now's the time to make an educated guess as to the outcome…
…Well, version 1. got the strongest vote in favour of independence (41%). The results to version 2. were not significantly different. But when you compare the answers to version 1. and 3., you do see changes. 33% chose 'become an independent country', with the yes vote dropping most amongst men (more details here).
So what does all this mean?
People are agreeable
Apparently, or so it says here, questions using the phrasing 'disagree' or 'agree' tends to favour the 'agree' side. I'm assuming this is because (most) people prefer being agreeable, over being disagreeable.
People fear change?
The change of results with version 3. of the question is widely attributed to using the word 'become' rather than 'be'. 'Become' apparently emphasises change and people don't like change. It's also been pointed out that the third wording of the question was the only one to refer to the United Kingdom.
Beware of questioners with a vested interest
Wording poll questions is clearly a dark art, especially when you consider that Lord Ashcroft was asking a set of questions to illicit the response that he wanted. I'm making the not unreasonable assumption here that anything that calls into question the independence referendum is in Lord Ashcroft's interest, given his political stance. And this article includes some concerns about the methodology of the survey.
Leave no mistake about what you mean
So let's get back to what's relevant to us as fundraisers, it's no surprise that subtle changes in wording can have unexpected consequences. So if you've got something to say to a donor, I'm in favour of saying it loud and clear.
This piece of work from last year demonstrates that.
Adopt a Word is a fantastic fundraising idea from I CAN, which you might have read about previously. Adopting your favourite word for yourself or a friend is incredibly engaging, but a challenge remains. How do you get word adopters to then give their support to the charity? A similarly difficult job would be moving people from owning a colour to supporting UNICEF regularly. It's a tough job, but here's what we tried to do.
We sent word buyers and word gift recipients a new word – one which described them and they could keep forever.
This certificate differs from the Adopt a Word one, as it comes from Matty, a boy who struggled to learn to communicate. His dad explained that, with I CAN's help, the change in his son had been phenomenal - and that was one word we wanted I CAN's phenomenal word adopters to keep.