We all know that if you want to persuade someone to do something, your chances of success rise the more you understand about them, their motivations and their habits.
In fundraising, the very essence of making a compelling ask comes down to the art of tailored persuasion.
Aristotle suggested in his treatise Rhetoric that you can persuade more successfully by focusing on three main aspects:
- Ethos: persuasion by character or credibility
- Pathos: persuasion by emotion
- Logos: persuasion by logic
Ethos suggests we’re more likely to listen to someone who has good sense, good morals and good will. We trust their judgement; we believe they’re doing the right thing and have our best interests at heart. But what someone considers to be good judgement or credible thinking can vary depending on what a person values as good.
Someone who can excite emotions in another person will also be more likely to make them act on what they believe in; this is Pathos. But again, how someone will respond emotionally can be directly linked to what they value in their life.
Logos, the premise that a logical argument can be very persuasive, follows a similar suggestion. While we might think of logic as an unemotional thought process, in reality it relies heavily on what one values. And as Aristotle himself noted, ethos and pathos can both affect our judgement. If we begin to understand what someone values, we can make sense of what they might consider to be logical and then use this to our advantage.
So, in my mind, this suggests that being persuasive comes down to understanding what another person values. How might we apply that to arts and culture fundraising? Understanding what your potential and current donors value, and using this information to tailor communication to make your ask more persuasively, is the very basis of donor segmentation. You’re looking to understand a person’s values, and align your ask in a way that highlights how your organization fulfils these values for each segment of your user base.
“Understanding what your potential and current donors value, and using this information to make your ask more persuasively, is the very basis of donor segmentation.”
With this in mind, I’d like to highlight three main segmentation models organisations use to understand what their customers value:
1. Demographics: Who?
2. Behavioural: What, When, How?
3. Attitudinal: Why?
Demographic segmentation is one of the simplest and most widely used segmentation models. This model divides your donor base by variables that relate to who the person is, such as age, gender, income, where they live, life stage or the size of their family.
You might get this information from their purchase history, such as price types based on age; personal information such as address or salutation; attendance at any children’s shows; and any additional information they may have provided over the duration of their relationship. You can also ask demographics questions as part of a survey or on a call if you feel visitors would be willing to share this personal information with you. Don’t forget that several countries have GDPR or similar privacy legislation to consider if you’re looking to append this data to a customer record.
Where might this be useful right now? Look, for example, at the geography of where donors live in relation to your venue or organisation. During this pandemic, many arts organisations have achieved a global reach by taking their offerings to digital platforms. Global donors may have chosen to give on a one-off basis because they have been able to access your work through those platforms. If your digital offering is not extending beyond this time, this donor base may no longer feel the same affinity to your organisation, so may not be responsive to future asks in the same way as those who are more local.
“Global donors may have chosen to give on a one-off basis because they have been able to access your work. If your digital offering is not extending beyond this time, this donor base may no longer feel the same affinity to your organisation.”
The second most common model is behavioural segmentation. What have your donors attended previously, what price types have they purchased, how far in advance did they book? Look at the size of any previous donations they have made, which campaigns they’ve contributed to in the past and any other information you can glean from their bookings and contribution history. What people do and when can tell you a lot about them.
Take the contribution history of your recent donors, for example. Are they new donors or have they contributed before the pandemic? If they’re new, you might want to treat them slightly differently to your existing donor base. This period of time is so unlike our typical situation that we cannot necessarily translate the things that happen in this moment to anything beyond this time and place. That’s not to say that those donors may not continue to support you going forward, but their values and reasons for donating may differ from those who have always supported your organisation.
Now we can tie this discussion back to our models for persuasion. Understanding behavioural and demographic attributes of your donors will likely provide you with some information about their values, helping you succeed by using the Ethos and Logos tools of persuasion.
“We cannot necessarily translate the things that happen in this moment to anything beyond this time and place.”
Finally, we can link the attitudinal segmentation model to the Pathos approach to persuasion. Although two individuals may appear to be similar in terms of demographics and behaviour, they may hold very different attitudes toward those attributes. Attitudes can be quite personal and can’t be gained as easily from a donor’s transaction history alone; you’ll be much more likely to get this level of understanding from surveys or direct conversations with donors. This work can be really useful in understanding why they make donations and what drives their philanthropy.
This is especially important during closure as we have a strand of donors who may not even consider themselves to be donors. With much more digital content being shared online, and an inability to engage in a traditional way due to closure, some ticket buyers may now be donating in exchange for content, treating their decision to donate almost like a ticket transaction in the sense that it’s product driven rather than directly philanthropic. While some of these people would consider themselves donors, some may not look to donate in future once the venue reopens. It’s worth considering this when deciding whether to add them to your existing donor pool or consider them as their own segment.
“During closure, we have a strand of donors who may not even consider themselves to be donors.”
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Whether you chose to apply demographic, behavioural, attitudinal segmentation or a combination of all three types, it’s important to consider what specifically your donors value about your organisation. Do you have a regular children’s programme that they as parents benefit from, or are you a key part of their local community, or has art and culture always been a core part of their life and something they would want to support from an emotional perspective?
The more you understand about your donors, the more persuasive you can be. Take this time to get to know them.