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.
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