I’d done the sums. I knew what my budget was. I’d done the filtered searches on the website.
So why did I leave the car showroom having blown that budget? Let me tell you what happened. I told the salesman our maximum, but the first thing the salesman did in response was start at a higher price. These were all the shiny features I could get at that level.
Too expensive for us, we all agreed, but still… no harm in looking, right?
Then we hit upon a slightly cheaper car, still above my stated price range, but much better value. I was all in. I was spending more money but thinking about how much I’d saved. I was delighted.
OK. Now think about these two statements:
It’s amazing how much Florence Nightingale achieved considering she died aged 21.
Florence Nightingale died aged 121, and was able to look back on a lifetime of amazing achievement.
Both statements are patently false. But what happens if you do this?
- Tell one group of people she died at 21, then tell them that it’s not true, and ask them to guess her actual age of death
- Tell another group that she died at 121, tell them that’s not true, but ask them to guess.
I think you know. The first group will guess a lower average age than the second group. We’re influenced by the previous information we’ve been given, even when they’re told it’s not true.
This is called anchoring (the car salesman was doing it too) and charities need to know about it. Not that I’m suggesting we don’t tell the truth of course. Just that we need to understand it as a cognitive bias. Here are some reasons why:
Approaching a major trust for the first time?
If you’re successful at a much lower amount than they’re capable of giving, and that’s how much your charity wanted or needed, then great. But if you were going in low in the hope that you will increase their support over the years, remember that while good relationship building can help your donation levels to grow, they will always be anchored to that first donation. So do your research and come in at the right level.
Trying to get sponsorship for an event?
Remember anchoring again here. Too often over the years I’ve seen charities selling event sponsorship to potential major corporate partners. Take a second and think about what you’re worth. If your partner is going to get a great deal for a relatively small amount, will they be similarly happy if the numbers are multiplied? It’s fine to use events to find ‘new business’ or to look after your current supporters, but remember the anchoring bias, and think about why you’re doing it.
Looking to get a personal donation?
The anchoring principle works at both ends of the scale. What effect would making the suggested amounts too low have on your donation form? Should you start with the higher amount, because… of Florence Nightingale living to be 121? And if you’re making a pitch to a particularly wealthy individual, you need to think about it too. Yes, they need to be asked at the right time by the right person. But just as importantly, they need to be asked for the right amount. How can you use anchoring to hit the sweet spot? Can you talk about exciting sums that you know they couldn’t achieve on their own first, and then focus on how they can play their part?
So, there you have it. Anchoring is crucially important for fundraisers. Oh, and Florence Nightingale lived to the ripe old age of 90.
But you’d have guessed that, right?