The Halo Effect of Reminiscing

kraftazaleagardensThis past week I was back in Orlando,  FL. The primary reason was to teach a fundraising workshop along with a couple short trainings,  but it was also a welcome chance to catch up with family and friends and a chance to see the ocean and visit my favorite little park on a lake that sits between Winter Park and Maitland.

It became very apparent on this trip that I’ve gotten a little spoiled by how close together everything is in Louisville.  Rather than taking 15 to 20 minutes to get anywhere,  typical trip times can easily be 45 minutes. Time I’ll know to use Google maps and then add 15 minutes to the time estimate!

It turns out that I’m not the only one who remembers things differently than they really were. Several years ago in Robert Putnam’s study related to social capital, he found that more people remembered going to a faith community (ie church,  temple,  etc) the previous weekend than the number who were actually reported by the leaders of the faith communities.  Perhaps we can then call this the halo effect.

How does this relate to giving? Many people may not realize how long it’s been since their last gift. They may not realize that their intention to make a gift two months ago did not actually get realized. It’s not an intentional oversight, rather human tendency to remember things more positively than they actually happened.

How can you overcome this? Some organizations chose to list the last gift date on any requests for funding. In my thinking,  it would also be a good idea to include some affirming language in the letter to ensure the reader doesn’t think we’re implying that they are anything other than the caring and generous donors that they really are. Adrian Sargeant has some great research related to increasing donor retention that includes information about the use of affirming language.

What are your thoughts? Do you have some additional ways your organization overcomes this dilemma?  Please share below!

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