Human Psychology In Fundraising: 6 Tips

Human psychology plays a huge part in any marketing campaign, fundraisers included. Adapt your campaign to the way humans actually think and act, and you will be more successful. Ignore fundamental aspects of human psychology, and you’ll be fighting an uphill battle.

With this in mind, today we are covering seven tips for successful fundraisers that consider human psychology. Implement just a few of them and you will quickly see a positive effect on your organization’s campaigns. 

6 Ways To Appeal to Human Psychology In Fundraising

1) Connect your goal to a human need

People want to donate to a cause that they emotionally connect with. That’s why you need to go a few levels deeper when you think about the question “Why should people donate to my fundraiser?” What is the deeper emotion that people feel when they look at your campaign? What problem is your organization trying to fix, and how can you attach that to a human need?

This is also where the importance of copywriting comes in. Even if you have a great cause that people could emotionally connect to, what matters is that you explain in a way that does build that connection. 

2) Inject a little bit of urgency

People are more likely to act when they are on a deadline. Just think about your own shopping habits. When you come across a sale that is ending soon, it’s a normal reaction to want to buy right away. Compare this to the sale that ends a few weeks from now – you have time to think about it. This is time that often brings don your desire for the sale in the first place, and after just a couple of days odds are you’ve completely forgotten about it.

If you want successful fundraisers, you need to get people to act now. You do this through urgency. Your fundraiser should always have an end date, and you can als0 consider “matching donations” up until a certain point. This creates the perceived need to act as quickly as possible.

3) Implement social proof

Even though people know your fundraiser is for a good cause, they will still hesitate if they don’t see any form of social proof. With no evidence that anybody else has donated, here are some of the questions that could very well pass through their head:

  1. Is this organization actually real?
  2. Where is my money actually going?
  3. If nobody has donated yet, is this cause actually legitimate?

You notice these are all questions expressing a certain level of doubt, and that this doubt is the precursor to NOT donating. One of the most effective things to do to completely avoid this doubt is implement the power of social proof. This can be testimonials from previous donors, pictures of them, or screenshots of their quotes regarding your organization.

Really, the only thing limiting your supply of social proof is your own imagination. Social proof is probably already everywhere – you just need to go find it.

4) Focus on one single message or request

Give people too many choices and they are less likely to act in the first place. This phenomenon has been observed in everything from restaurant menus to hug marketing campaigns, and it’s a huge part of human psychology in fundraising.

One single offer or request simplifies the decision making process for your potential donor. This makes them more likely to donate to your cause. Give them too many options, however, and the likelihood of them acting drops significantly.

The same power of choice (or lack of it) is present in website design. Simple will beat complex, every time. For more information on how to implement this effectively, check out our ultimate guide to website design.

5) Include a benefit to the donator

Even when donating to a good case, people like to somehow benefit from it. This doesn’t make them selfish; in fact, being more likely to donate if there’s something “in it” for them is a perfectly natural way to think. 

Think about your own online habits. How often do you do something simply from the goodness of your heart? This does happen, of course, but it’s rare. Odds are you want something from it. Whether that’s a tangible benefit or a psychological benefit to acting, the fact is that you are somehow getting something in return for your action.

The thing is, this preference for direct benefit is rarely actually vocalized when it comes to fundraisers. Many nonprofits are hesitant to directly appeal to the “selfish” aspect of human psychology. This hurts their odds for success. 

Think about how you can change this. What are the benefits that people will receive by donating to your fundraiser? What are certain “perks” that you can offer them? You will be more likely to hit your goals if you take this into account 

6) Compare the donation to other expenses

There are two safe bets that can describe most fundraisers:

1) The organization probably isn’t asking their typical donor for a ton of money

2) The people being targeted probably routinely spend the same amount of money on other purchases in their day-to-day life

Considering these two realities, it can often be an effective strategy to compare the price of a donation to “less important” purchases. This is often done with the price of a cup of coffee, but the effect can really be achieved with anything around the same price point. If you want to fully appeal to human psychology in fundraising, price shouldn’t be forgotten!


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