Afraid of missing out? You’re not alone

Social proof is a powerful motivator in fundraising. We might, for example, localize an appeal with the donor’s city name to imply that others in the neighborhood are giving, or we might add “Many donors give this amount” on a reply device. This is standard wisdom-of-the-crowd social proof.

But there’s another form of social proof that we can evoke, and that’s the fear of missing out.

This fear is hardwired into us. Nobody wants to be the odd man out if everyone else seems to be doing something or if everyone else is snapping up some new gadget. It’s a natural feeling. The reaction is natural too — “I want to do what everybody else is doing.” Social proof.

So here are three possible ways to evoke the fear of missing out in fundraising.

Use deadlines. Fear of missing out makes the deadline a natural motivator. It’s one reason that year-end appeals tend to do well. The December 31 deadline is built right in. But if you look, you’ll probably find deadlines for many of your appeals, simply because most projects have a defined beginning and end. If not, try to create a deadline that’s believable, and — this is important — explain why the deadline exists.

Funny thing about deadlines, though. People tend to put off taking action until the last minute when they’re faced with a deadline. So don’t allow too much time for a response. You might even consider including an inducement for early action.

Demonstrate scarcity. “Supplies are limited.” It’s classic “fear of missing out.” In fundraising, the supply could be the money in a matching grant. When it’s used up, the matching grant is over. The supply could be a quantity of medicine that’s available to be shipped to poor countries. Donors need to give now in order to have their gift cover the cost of shipping. The supply could be the number of backpacks with school supplies that a charity has on hand to give to children. Donors have give now before the opportunity runs out. Look for ways to make the point, “When it’s gone, it’s gone!”

Show the result of inaction. It’s easy to get so wrapped up in telling donors how much good they can do that we forget to represent the other side of the coin — what happens when the donor doesn’t give. So describe the dystopia that results when your donor doesn’t give — the lack, the pain, the suffering, the ever-growing need. The message your donors will receive is, “You’ll miss out on doing good and making a difference,” and it’ll help them decide to give.



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