Commitment And Consistency In Action

I wanted to share a brilliant use of the psychological principle of ‘commitment and consistency’ in action. I recently saw this influential technique employed in a very novel way by a non-profit group looking to build a new base of donors for their cause.

The core concept behind the ‘commitment and consistency’ trigger is that people are pre-disposed to continue doing something once they made a commitment to start. Years ago, companies like Columbia House would give you 10 CD’s or cassettes (this is pre-iPod) for a penny – if you agreed to join their music club for 6 months or a year. They knew that a significant percentage of the people who got the initial deal would continue on as customers and earn them back all of the costs of the initial offer plus a profit.

The non-profit group’s plan to engage new donors involved taking funds provided by existing large donors and using them to underwrite the issuing of credits that could be given out to non-donors who had some interest in the organization’s work. The recipients of these donation credits would then be able to use those credits to make a donation to any of the specific projects currently underway through the company. In essence, the major donor supplies the cash and the new potential donor gets to choose where to spend it.

The beauty of this approach is that, even though they don’t have to give their own cash, the new potential donors are actually making a commitment to become donors when they decide to participate in this arrangement. They are becoming invested in the support of a specific non-profit project and they are more likely to continue to support it in the future with their own resources. The donation credit lowers the barrier of resistance to becoming involved and makes it easier to persuade them to take the first steps as a new donor. It is the closest thing to giving out a ‘free sample’ that can be done in a non-profit environment.

If implemented well, I can’t see how this would fail to bring in a significant base of new donors. They will, in turn, provide the social proof required to convince others to join in as well. As the new donors study the various opportunities for giving they will learn more about the work of the non-profit and as they get feedback on the results of the project they chose to support, they will grow to like and trust the group even more. This will continue to reinforce the relationship and create a new base of financial support.

This is a great example of how implementing the basic tools of influence can amplify the results of a promotional project. It takes the initial focus of the new donor relationship off of the money and redirects it to the various projects underway. This same thing happens in the for profit world when a business gives away a gift certificate. The recipient immediately shifts from a mindset of ‘do I want to buy anything from this company’ to a mindset of ‘what should I buy with my gift certificate?’ Once the commitment to buy something is made, it is much easier to add extras to the sale and start moving the new customer into being a repeat customer.

Do you know of any examples that show the psychology of influence at work in a well integrated fashion? Leave a comment below and let us know more.

If you are listening to the podcast version of this article, we encourage you to visit the website at www dot go-to guy enterprises dot com.

4 thoughts on “Commitment And Consistency In Action”

  1. Noah,

    Leave a link on this thread when you get your report finished. I’d like to see your take on Cialdini’s work.


  2. I was working on a report today on Cialdini’s concepts and I came across this post. Very nicely done.

    Michael Silk, great response which truly shows the commitment and consistency in action.

  3. Michael,

    Great story! That is a very clever approach to checking out a potential client.

    I’m glad everything worked out for you and appreciate you taking the time to share the story here.


  4. Hi Andrew,

    That’s was a great strategy of using commitment & consistency.

    I recently used commitment & consistency with a prospective client for my copywriting services.

    The prospective client said he wanted to hire me… but… he wouldn’t be able to get my fee together for another 4-weeks. He said, “Is that okay?”

    I said, “Sure, but I am very busy and so if you want me to take you seriously there’s a couple things you need to do: 1) package up the product you want me to write for and ship it to me. 2) Send me a cheque for £20 but DON’T make it out to my name. Instead make it out to Blankety-Blank charity; and I’ll forward the cheque on to the charity on your behalf.”

    Why did I do this?

    Not because I wanted to look over his product (12 Internet Marketing DVD’s) whilst waiting for my copywriting fee to arrive.

    Also, notice I didn’t ask him to make out a cheque to me. That would have made me look like a cheapskate only after his money. Instead, I asked him to make it out to a local charity I support.

    So, to break it down:

    I got him to commit to hiring me by sending me the product.

    I also got him to commit to hiring me by sending a nominal amount of £20 – which I forwarded onto a charity. This also leads to the consistency principle of him sending me my copywriting fee (i.e., I got him into the process of sending me money).

    Also, by saying the money was going to a charity – it made it very difficult for the prospective client to decline without losing face. As my fee for his project was £4,000; if he backed out from sending £20 he’d be proving (by his actions) he wasn’t serious.

    Anyway, long story short. He DID happily send his product and charitable donation; he DID hire me; he DID pay my fee; and he WAS very happy with the results I’ve produced for him.

    I think the above illustrates a good lesson for any consultant / coach / copywriter etc., whose been let down by prospective clients who say they’re serious but, end up stringing them along.

    The solution: Get them to send you a cheque (for a nominal amount of your fee) made out to a charitable donation of your choice. This will “weed out” the talkers from the doers.

    Hope that helps!

    Thanks for some great posts Andrew. I’ve only just found your site – but will check back often.


    Michael Silk.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.