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What Should My Ask String Be?

We recently helped a private university write their appeal which contained what they considered a clever ask of un-rounded numbers. In other words $42, $427, or $4,226 instead of an ask string of $50, $500, or $5,000.. No rationale was behind those numbers. It’s just the way it had been done for years and years.

Why did this institution of higher learning insist on asking for unusual amounts like $427? It seems there once had been a VP of Advancement who thought this strategy was very avant-garde. It became de facto that they asked for these unconventional amounts.

Some convincing was needed to change things. The facts are these:

  1. Round numbers pay off better - Donors are at least 5x more likely to give in rounded numbers ($25, $50, or $100) than they are in in-between amounts like $42.50, for example. This same logic applies to higher giving levels also.

  2. Priming definitely helps – If a donor previously gave $25, seeing an ask string of $100, $50, or $25 (in that order) makes $50 look like a reasonable choice. Conversely, seeing an ask string beginning with $25, $50, $100 can make $25 look like the right choice.

  3. Choosing the middle – Did you know that there is a tendency for people (like donors!), to pick the middle of 3 dollar amounts? That’s why Ask 2 is the target number for the next gift. It also places Ask 3 at or near their current level of giving.

What you need to remember is that these are merely tendencies. Though they’ve been verified in statistical studies by psychologists, what they reflect is how the subconscious mind works.

And finally, analysis of our clients’ annual fund results have confirmed that, properly done, ask strings increase the average annual gift.

What’s your experience with ask strings been? Anyone care to corroborate or refute our experiences?

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