The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

How to Use Social Proof in Online Fundraising

Social proof is the powerful idea that if we think everyone else is acting in a certain way, we’re likely to act that way, too. People are conformists by nature, and we take cues about how to think and what to do from those around us. Social norms fuel entire industries. Would the fashion world be able to motivate us to buy a narrower tie or a longer skirt this year if we didn’t care what people think?

At Network for Good, we’ve used the principle of social norms to increase donations through our web site. We state that more than 100,000 nonprofits have raised more than $800 million through our service to show how easy and safe it is to give through our system. Many charities have “cybergiving week” – that end-of-year spike in online giving. The psychological subtext is simple; everyone’s doing it, so you should too!

Here are some ways you can generate social proof for your cause:

  • Once you get some critical mass going, use fundraising tickers. Show how many people are giving, in real time.
  • Count your community: Show how many people have taken action to create a sense of a growing community of like-minded people.
  • Use testimonials: Quotes from people talking about why they support you are powerful. Other people are often your best messengers.
  • In your call to action, choose wording that demonstrates that others are already participating, e.g. “join millions of other generous Americans” or “hundreds of other concerned members in your community”.

Social proof is the powerful idea that if we think everyone else is acting in a certain way, we’re likely to act that way, too. People are conformists by nature, and we take cues about how to think and what to do from those around us. Social norms fuel entire industries. Would the fashion world be able to motivate us to buy a narrower tie or a longer skirt this year if we didn’t care what people think?

At Network for Good, we’ve tried using the principle of social norms to increase donations through our web site. We state that more than 325,000 people have given more than $112 million through our web site to show new users just how popular we are. In December 2006, when our traffic increases, we feature a real-time ticker of total donations so people can see just how many other people are taking action. In December 2006 and 2005, we partnered with Yahoo! on a “cybergiving week” to promote the idea that just as retail sales has black Friday, charities have “cybergiving week” – that end-of-year spike in online giving. The psychological subtext? Everyone’s doing it so you, should too! Fundraising thermometers and also send the message, “Other people are doing it, and you are part of something larger.”

Here are some ways you can generate social proof:

• Once you get some critical mass going, use fundraising tickers. Show how many people are giving, in real time.
• Count your community: Show how many people have taken action to create a sense of a growing community of like-minded people.
• Use testimonials: Quotes from people talking about why they support you are powerful. Other people are often your best messengers.
• In calls to action, choose wording that demonstrates that others are already participating, e.g. “join millions of other generous Americans” or “hundreds of other concerned members in your community”

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About This Blog

Linda Lombardi
Content Manager

We’re here to help you win hearts and minds—and donations.

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Want to raise more money and learn how to market your cause with bigger impact? You’re in the right place! The Nonprofit Marketing Blog is managed by our team of experts here at Network for Good. We’re here to bring you the best in nonprofit marketing trends, fundraising techniques, technology developments, and amazing nonprofit examples.

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