How NGOs Can Use Behavioural Insights
Many are still unaware of how charities and NGOs can use behavioural insights to help boost donations. A few simple changes to how an NGO communicates with its audience across all channels can significantly increase donations.
What is Behavioural Science?
Behavioural science refers to any field of study that deals with human behaviour such as sociology, anthropology, and psychology, as well as aspects of biology, economics, geography, law, psychiatry, and political science.
Behavioural insights are the nuggets of information that can be extracted from the scientific data to discover how people make choices, which can be utilised to help inform future projects.
Which Behavioural Insights can NGOs utilise?
In 2010 the UK government set up a Behavioural Insights Team (also known as the Nudge Unit) to generate behavioural insights to inform policies and improve public services. The Behavioural Insights Team, now a social purpose company partly owned by the Cabinet Office, published the 2013 report Applying Behavioural Insights to Charitable Giving. This report has been a staple document for charities and NGOs and describes four key behavioural insights that can be utilised to ‘nudge’ people towards charitable giving.
Make it easy – One of the best ways to encourage people to make charitable donation is to make it easy to do so. For example using prompts on your website to encourage people to become donors, using auto-fill on online forms, or offering to automatically increase monthly donation amounts in line with inflation.
Attract attention – Making charitable giving more attractive is a simple way to increase donations. This could include using personalised messaging in targeted remarketing campaigns, rewarding donations with small gifts or improving the design of a web page.
Focus on the social – People are influenced by what others do. If we see charitable giving as the social norm we are more likely to do it ourselves. This can be utilised by making acts of giving more visible to others such providing the option to share the fact you’ve donated on social media or using prominent individuals such as influencers or celebrities to post on their channels about a cause.
Timing matters – If you get the timing right you can really boost charitable donations. Ensure that appeals and campaigns are launched at time when they are likely to be most effective such as in December or during Ramadan.
REDRESS as a real life example
Digital marketing agency Fat Beehive helped the charity REDRESS increase donations by utilising behavioural insights on their website. The charity, which represents victims of torture to obtain justice and reparation, made three simple changes that resulted in a huge increase in donations.
Firstly, using the insight that humans relate to each other more when we look them in the eye, powerful images where sourced to help online visitors feel engaged straight away. Then several combinations of different images and donation amounts were tested and the feedback enabled the organisation to establish the most successful combination.
Secondly, REDRESS uploaded an impact statement to their website, highlighting the difference people’s donations make, which included a direct quote from a torture survivor. People struggle to relate to facts and figures but emotive story-telling resonates with the part of our brains that responds quickly and intuitively.
Finally, people feel more inclined to give when they receive something in return. REDRESS made use of this by making donating to them more attractive. They did this by emphasising the benefits, which for regular donors includes receiving regular updates, event invitations and a copy of their annual review.
These three simple changes to the REDRESS website lead to a 70% spike in donations, with the average number of regular donors increasing by 300%.
Why should NGOs apply Behavioural Insights?
Behavioural insights are already used across the private and commercial sectors to influence consumers’ decision making to boost sales. There is no reason why these same insights and methods can’t be utilised by charities and NGOs to boost donations. It can feel a bit immoral at first, as though you’re tricking people into donating, but it’s no different to any other marketing efforts charities and NGOs already do and ultimately, the profits are for a good cause.