If you’ve seen me speak, you’ve heard me talk about “Ask for one thing”.
I learned a lifetime ago that, in testing, the more you ask for, or the more check boxes you have on your reply form, the less likely you’ll get a positive result.
Which is why we most often default to asking for a single gift ONLY on a reply – not single and monthly. BUT – if you have the numbers – test it. You may find that you can ask for both and your results might not suffer. But I doubt it.
Anyhow, the other week, Tom Ahern shared a discussion we had over a particular check box. You can read the whole thing here but the nutshell is this: Is adding a check box to your reply forms that says something along the lines of “If you want more information about leaving a gift in your will to us, please check this box.”
I recall a moment where I imagined a sort of ‘direct response nerd fight’ break out between Tom and I in the back of this session we were sitting in. I could hear a tiny bit of Tom’s heart break the moment I shared that we had never tested it to see if it hurt responses but in the context of “ask for one thing” – it made sense to not include it.
Most of our clients don’t have the numbers to do a truly accurate test which is why I am so grateful to my international network of nerds that can and have tested almost everything known to human kind.
Again, Tom shared the responses we got from our colleagues but here are the hits:
It’s something that works and is definitely worth doing.
We often suggest this to clients and none have reported any negative effect on response rates or value of donations.
A good survey gets at least 70%, maybe 90% of the legacy leads you’ll ever get. Everything else is a minor player.
But picking up another 10 to 30% is bloody good. So if a survey is in place (if it isn’t that is the highest priority) things like check boxes on appeals are probably good….
Still, there are more important things to worry about or do to get leads. Tick boxes are a distraction and people who do them often think they have a bequest program.
A final word from Jonathon Grapsas at Flat Earth Direct (AUS):
We’ve tested this a few times. And the results have been a little inconsistent. Mostly not a statistically significant difference in response, a couple of times it has suppressed cash gifts.
However we wherever possible do avoid including tick boxes like the plague, for a few reasons:
– to the point made below, tick boxes aren’t your bequest program. There are so many other valuable activities that deliver a much greater chance of increasing your confirmed pool; surveys, standalone bequest packs, bequest events (virtual and in person), telephone follow up, etc..
And yet we so often see a great tussle to get some real estate on the response form, when in fact it really is a smokescreen.
– just because someone ticks a box doesn’t mean they are a) a genuine lead or b) a unique or new lead. Often they are misunderstood (because the language of whats being asked is unclear), and/or simply reconfirming a bequest status from someone already in the prospect pool.
– the value of the leads is almost always over stated. Average bequest values are misleading. Most bequests are in fact really small, pecuniary gifts of a few thousand. Then skewed by those enormous ones. So to use an average as an estimate of potential value isn’t useful, because of the reasons above (they may not be new), they may also never realise as a gift to the organisation and in fact when they do most will likely be small.
This isn’t a dig at bequest prospecting. But as you can probably tell our advice is always about separating cash and bequest (not the donors, of course there’s a link between those giving cash for long periods of time), but the approaches. Keep cash appeals to cash. Find time to talk to supporters about bequests. Not at the same time.”
So, as always, the final learning comes back to TEST! TEST! TEST! and CHARITIES DIFFER! (Universities are NOT the same as an animal shelter!)
If you don’t have the numbers to do an accurate test then I hope you are plugged into those folks and orgs that do or follow people like Jeff Brooks, Mark Phillips, Sean Triner or Jonathon Grapsas that HAVE and continue to share their results.