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  • James Odene

Increasing donations, the odd way



Having recently attended Nudgestock, the annual conference hosted by Ogilvy Consultancy (advertising giants and purveyors of behavioural economics), I was excited to find ‘The Behavioural Science Review 2019’ as part of my goodie bag. In here, Ogilvy write about a variety of campaigns they’ve worked on and how they achieved the results. Here is one of those results…


Donation via envelopes

They (Ogilvy) were tasked with using behavioural science to increase the frequency and amount of donations achieved via the Christian Aid Week donation envelopes. By creatively applying insights in to potential biases that could increase the donations, they came up with six test envelopes that they put to the test.


Here are the six variations:

1. Hand delivered stamp. Adding a ‘Hand delivered’ stamp to the front: the idea here of trying to engage a kind of reciprocity. Hard work has been done, maybe I should try too.


2. Urgency. Proposing a scarcity with a ‘We’re collecting this week only!’ banner: with scarcity the aim is to encourage action before it’s too late.


3. Appeal. Attempting cognitive ease with ‘Appeal. Donation Envelope’.


4. Orientation. Changing the orientation of the envelope to open to give the impression it was an envelope rather than a leaflet.


5. Gift Aid. Highlighting the benefits of Gift Aid.


6. Weight. Increasing the weighting of the paper stock to increase the perceived value of the envelope. This is known as costly signalling.



So, what do you think?

If you had to put money on it, which you do think would be most effective? Typically, I assume that most marketers would think of perhaps inciting perceived scarcity or highlighting Gift Aid benefits as the obvious go-to ideas. Show the benefits of the product, make it seem scarce.



The results

These six designs were testing for one week with a sample of 200,000 consumers per design. Out of the six, four of them showed an increase in total donations received compared to the control.


Those were:

Orientation +17%

Weight +14%

Hand Delivered Stamp +13%

Appeal +10%


Crazy right?

The Orientation and Hand delivered stamp drove return rates, the Weight envelope drove average donations and Appeal drove both. Compared to Urgency and Gift Aid which significantly reduced return rates (-14%, -46%) and total donations (-19%, -46.5%).


These results are pretty significant. I put my hand up and admit that I could have been convinced that the Gift Aid envelope would have been a good bet, whereas it actually stripped return rates down by a staggering -46%!


Old-school economics bites the dust

It is very reasonable to assume that the basic lore of economics and marketing (show the benefits and it’ll sell) will boost sales and something so odd (and expensive) as increasing the paper weight of the envelopes was a ludicrous idea. This is the true power of harnessing behavioural science and testing innovative ideas.


Rule of thumb here?

Create a hypothesis (with behavioural science)

Test it

Scale it


#Donations #Scarcity #CognativeEase #LabourIllusion #AffordanceCues #Salience #CostylSignalling

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