If you were listening to Broadcasting House (Sunday morning, BBC R4), you’ll have been part of an experiment.
You’ll have heard a chorus or two of ‘There’s no one quite like Grandma’ by the St Winifred’s Choir and you’ll have been asked to obey whatever urge popped into your mind.
If you know the song, you’ll be aware that the most likely urge on hearing it would be to cut off your own ears.
This was not the intention of the experiment. It was testing whether listeners would be ‘nudged’ into calling their grandchildren, when they heard the chorus ‘Grandma, we love you’.
To be fair, this was an experiment dreamed up by the producers of the programme, rather than one of the authors of Nudge theory. When they spoke to Richard H Thaler, co-author of Nudge. Improving decisions about health, wealth and happiness, he wasn’t at all impressed with their methodology.
But he gave an interesting insight into what ‘nudging’ is really about.
Nudge theory has gained a great deal of currency amongst governments world-wide which are looking for ways to change the behaviours of their populations (that’s you and me, by the way). The relevance to fundraisers is fairly obvious, as we too are looking for effective ways to encourage donors to do what we want them to do.
So what did Richard H Thaler say that you might find useful?
First, a clarification. 'Nudging' has nothing to do with subliminal messaging like playing ‘There’s no one quite like Grandma’. It’s not even about subtlety or tricking someone into an action. One of Thaler’s favourite ‘nudges’ is the signs on our streets telling us to look left before crossing.
Nudge is about getting the right outcome.
To create effective 'nudges', Thaler looks at choice architecture – within what you are offered, how can you steer someone to the right outcome?
He mentioned an interesting test they are currently doing on what kind of letter you should write to a person who owes the treasury money. The most successful approach they have developed has a 10% higher yield on payment than the others they’ve tested.
(I'd make a bet that a fundraiser could have written that letter for them).
Thaylor didn’t want to give away too much but he told us:
- It’s not about being threatening. It’s most about being nice.
- The winning letter uses social pressure – telling the non-tax payer that most people do pay their taxes.
- They make it as easy as possible to make payment.
It's not rocket science really is it?
When asked to boil down 'nudging' to its essence, Thaler said:
If you want someone to do something, make it easy.
I don’t think this advice will come as anything other than a reminder (or a nudge) to fundraisers. We’ve been trying to make it easy to give for years. The great thing that online and mobile technology gives us is making giving as simple as pressing a button.
This is the first text giving advert we did – ten years ago already!
Mark created the £1 pack more like 20 years ago to make giving easy.