The Power of Persuasion Putting the Science of Influence ... Power of Persuasion Putting the Science of Influence to Work in Fundraising ... Robert B. Cialdini is Regents’ professor of psychology and distinguished

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    The Power of Persuasion Putting the Science of Influence to Work in Fundraising

    By Robert B. Cialdini

    Stanford Social Innovation Review Summer 2003

    Copyright 2004 by Leland Stanford Jr. University

    All Rights Reserved



  • THIS STORY BEGINS WITH A MYSTERY.A few years ago, I read a newspaper article describ-

    ing $5,000 in humanitarian aid that had been sentbetween Mexico and Ethiopia. At the time, Ethiopiacould fairly lay claim to the greatest suffering in theworld. Because of a long drought and a series ofarmed conflicts, Ethiopians were dying daily by thehundreds of sickness and hunger. Relief agencieswere calling out to the rest of the world for food, med-icine, and funds. It was not surprising that such a giftwould be sent.

    It shocked me, though, when I read further andlearned that the money had been sent from Ethiopiato Mexico. Officials of theEthiopian Red Cross sent the fundsthat year to help victims of the

    Mexico City earthquake. Now I was bewildered.Why would such a needy country make such a gift?

    As it turns out, there was a very good reason.Despite the enormous needs prevailing in Ethiopia, theAfrican nation sent the money to Mexico because, in1935, Mexico had sent aid to Ethiopia when it wasinvaded by Italy.

    The need to reciprocate had transcended greatcultural differences, long distances, acute famine,many years, and immediate self-interest. A half-cen-tury later, against all countervailing forces, obliga-tion triumphed.

    As a psychology professor, the science of influ-ence fascinates me. Why is it that one person feelsobligated to another, and what compels someone tofulfill an obligation? Can one per-son influence another ethically, in

    a way that leaves both parties feeling satisfied?To answer these questions, I undertook a three-

    year program of research, studying the regularpractices of professionals who had been gettingme to comply with their requests all my life. I infil-trated various settings to learn from the inside. Ienrolled incognito in the training program of salesorganizations and learned how to sell encyclopedias,automobiles, and appliances. I took a job in a restau-rant to see how servers generated larger tips. Iworked in a public relations firm, in a pair of adver-tising agencies, and in the fundraising departmentsof two charity organizations.

    What I learned surprised me.Although I registered hun-

    dreds of individual compliance

    tactics, the great majority of techniques could beunderstood in terms of only a few universal principlesof human behavior. In my book, Influence: Scienceand Practice, I outline six rules of persuasion, andexplain how companies and polished professionalsutilize them to gain compliance sometimes fromunknowing and unwilling targets.

    But the six rules need not be employed dishonor-ably. Savvy individuals can make full use of them, eth-ically, bettering society and providing fulfillment towilling donors. How do they do it? To find out, theStanford Social Innovation Review sent out a question-naire to nonprofit executive directors and consul-tants, and asked them which of the six rules were mostrelevant to their fundraising work.

    The survey results, as well asfollow-up interviews, suggest that





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  • Putting the science of influence to work in fundraising

  • at least four rules offer unique opportunities for nonprofit devel-opment. They are: (1) reciprocity people try to repay, in kind,what another person has provided them (it is this rule thatprompted Ethiopias gift to Mexico); (2) scarcity opportuni-ties seem more valuable when they are less available; (3) author-

    ity people tend to defer to legitimate authorities as a decision-making shortcut; and (4) consistency once people make achoice or take a stand, they encounter personal and interpersonalpressures to behave consistently with that commitment.1

    Although use of these principles optimizes influence, they areemployed optimally by only a fraction of those who could ben-efit from them. Many nonprofit leaders regularly fumble awaythe chance to employ the principles because they do not under-stand them or know how to harness their force. Others know quitewell what the principles are and how they work, but they importthem dishonestly, achieving short-term goals while leaving a tar-get feeling manipulated.

    Successful nonprofit leaders understand the rules of influenceand employ them ethically. Rather than putting people in a ham-merlock, they uncover pre-existing affinities, informing peopleto yes. As a consequence, even after complying, people arelikely to feel positively toward the nonprofit and its cause, and aremore willing to comply with future requests.

    RECIPROCITYSeveral years ago, a university professor sent Christmas cards to

    a sample of strangers. The response was amazing holiday cardscame pouring back from people he never met. Most neverinquired as to his identity. They received his holiday card, and theyautomatically sent cards in return.2

    While small in scope, this study shows the potency of the rule

    of reciprocation. Each of us has been taught to live up to it, andeach of us knows the social sanctions applied to violators. Partof reciprocitys power stems from the fact that a person can trig-ger a feeling of indebtedness by doing an uninvited favor.3 Peoplefeel obligated to repay whether or not they have asked for a favor.

    Many nonprofits employ the rule when they send free giftsor trinkets through the mail, hoping for a donation in return. Forinstance, the Disabled American Veterans organization reportsthat its simple mail appeal for donations produces a response rateof about 18 percent. But when the mailing also includes an unso-licited gift (gummed, individualized address labels), the successrate nearly doubles to 35 percent.

    The Hare Krishna Society, an Eastern religious sect, employedthis rule with similar results. A robed Krishna would walk up toa person in an airport and give them a gift, such as a flower or acopy of the Bhagavad-Gita. Often, people attempted to returnthe gift, but the Krishnas refused to take them back, requestinga donation instead. People who didnt want the flowers often gavemoney anyway.

    Over the years, however, it became more difficult for theKrishnas to use the strategy effectively, because they were usingreciprocity to create obligations that didnt exist naturally exploiting it so only they benefited. Many soon became wise totheir ways, and either avoided the sect members or deflected thegifts. Ultimately, the International Society for Krishna Con-sciousness declared bankruptcy in the United States. What hadbeen a short-term fundraising success was a long-term failure.

    The good news is that it is not necessary to use the rule in sucha manipulative way. Nonprofit leaders can tap the reciprocity ruleby uncovering and pointing out the services, benefits, and advan-tages that having their organization in the community has already


    Robert B. Cialdini is Regents professor of psychology and distinguishedgraduate research professor at Arizona State University. He has taught atthe University of California at Santa Cruz, the Annenberg School for Com-munications, and Stanford Universitys Graduate School of Business. Hisbook, Influence: Science and Practice (Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon,2001), has appeared in numerous editions and 11 languages. As president of the firm Influence at Work, Cialdini speaks and consults regularly onEthical Influence. He can be reached at

    The savvy nonprofit leader taps the reciprocity rule by describing future support as payback for what their organization has already given.


    provided to potential contributors. To corporate contributors,they can point to the benefits their organization has been providingto the community by making it a better place for the companyto be located making it easier for them to retain good employ-ees and to attract new ones. To individual donors, developmentdirectors can point to the services and resources their organiza-tion has been providing all along perhaps the social safety netthey have been providing. The savvy nonprofit leader taps the rec-iprocity rule by describing future support as payback for what theirorganization has already given.

    This is the approach taken by the Girl Scouts of the USA,which has some 3.7 million members in more than 233,000troops worldwide. In addition to field trips, sports clinics, and com-munity service projects, the Girl Scouts run several outreachprograms. Girl Scouts in Public Housing, for example, createstroops for girls in impoverished homes, in partnership with theU.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).And yet, many people still hold a very narrow view of the GirlScouts mission.

    Many people have a notion of Girl Scouting thats stuck inthe 1950s centered on camping, selling cookies, and crafts pro-jects, said Laura Westley, vice president of government relationsand advocacy. We want people to understand that we know morethan how to make great chocolate mint cookies. We understandwhats going on in girls lives today.

    Westleys job, in part, is to influence Capitol Hill lawmakerswho control federal purse strings to appropriate funds for GirlScouts programs. To do that, she relies on the law of reciproc-ity, alerting members of Congress to Girl Scout programmingthat is already benefiting their communities.

    About a year and a half ago, for example, Westley took U.S.Rep. Marcy Kaptur, an Ohio Democrat, to visit a Girl Scouttroop in a Toledo public housing project, enabling her to see the

    Rejection-Then-Retreat:Getting Them to Give

    Reciprocity also governs another kind of behaviorthat lends itself to compliance: concessions. If twopeople start out with incompatible positions, andone person makes a concession, the other feels a need toreciprocate with a concession in return.

    To test this technique, my research assistants and Iconducted an experiment. We stopped people on thestreet and said we were from the county juvenile deten-tion center, and we asked if they would be willing tochaperon a group of juvenile delinquents on a day trip tothe zoo. Only 17 percent of those we asked complied. Forother randomly selected individuals, we began with alarger request: We asked them to serve as counselors atthe center, requiring two hours a week for three years.To that request, 100 percent of the individuals declined.We responded by saying, Well, if you cant do that,would you be willing to chaperon a group of juveniledelinquents on a trip to the zoo for just one day?

    The results were dramatic: 50 percent of the individu-als volunteered. We tripled willingness to comply with asizable request by adding a few more words. But thosewords were crucial because they triggered the obligationto reciprocate a concession.

    Researchers have also used this strategy to increasepeoples willingness to donate blood. They started outasking people to give a unit of blood every six weeks fortwo years. Once that was rejected, they said, Well,would you be able to give just one unit of blood? Insuch cases, people were much more likely to donate.

    Frequently, nonprofit development directors havemore than one level of request to make of people. Whystart with the smaller one? As long as the larger one islegitimate, and not intended as a manipulation, fundrais-ers should start there. Theres a chance theyll be success-ful. If not, they can retreat to a small request, signifi-cantly increasing the chances of compliance. RC





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  • programs impact firsthand. After visiting, Kaptur (who sits onthe House Appropriations Committee) began advocating forthe program in Congress ultimately resulting in a $2 million fed-eral allocation in fiscal year 2003 to fund its expansion.

    Part of the agenda is to have people understand what GirlScouts is doing for the girls in their community, how it impactsthe lives of volunteers, and how it impacts the community as awhole, Westley said. And the only way that most members ofCongress and executive agency officials really get to know thatis for someone to take the time to show them.

    Following this script, Westley says, has helped the Girl Scoutsgarner about $15 million from the federal government since 2000.

    SCARCITYMesa, Ariz., is a Phoenix suburb with a large Mormon popula-tion and a huge Mormon temple. Although I had appreciated thetemple architecture from a distance (I live nearby), I had neverbeen interested enough to go inside. That changed the day Iread a newspaper article that told of a special inner sanctum thatonly the faithful were allowed to see.

    The newspaper reported that there was one exception tothis rule: For a few days immediately after a temple is newly con-structed, nonmembers are allowed to tour the entire thing. Asit happened, the Mesa temple had been recently renovated, andwas therefore classified as new. Thus, for the next several daysonly, non-Mormon visitors could see the traditionally banned tem-

    ple area. I immediately resolved to take a tour.When I phoned a friend to ask if he wanted to come along,

    he wondered why I was so intent on a visit. I had never beeninclined toward a temple tour before. I had no questions aboutthe Mormon religion. I had no interest in church architecture. Irealized that the temples lure had a sole cause: If I did not expe-rience the restricted sector soon, I would never again have thechance. Something that, on its own merits, held little appeal hadbecome decidedly more attractive merely because it was rapidly

    becoming less available. This, in a nutshell, is the powerful forcebehind the second tool of nonprofit influence: scarcity.

    Almost everyone is vulnerable to the scarcity principle. Some-times all that is necessary to make people want something moreis to tell them that before long they cant have it. Thats why adver-tisers use lines such as limited supply, limited time only, andlast chance offer. People want products and services moreunder those conditions.

    Research has shown that tasters rated cookies as better whenthey were scarce; consumers rated phosphate-based detergentsas better once the government banned their use; university stu-dents rated their cafeteria food more highly when they thoughtthe cafeteria would be closed; and young lovers rated themselvesas more in love with their sweethearts as long as their parents triedto keep them apart.

    While scarcity is commonly thought of as consuming prod-ucts or services in limited supply, development directors can alsotake advantage of the scarcity rule by uncovering and describingtheir organizations uncommon or unique features that cannot befound elsewhere. If an organization is the only one in a given coun-try, or even a given city, providing a needed service, developmentofficers can and should let potential donors know this. Giving tosuch an organization may make donors feel special and privy tosomething few are part of. And directors should stress how a par-ticular fundraising campaign will facilitate that uniqueness.

    Global Greengrants Fund takes precisely this tactic whenfundraising. Greengrants is a Boulder, Colo.-based charity that

    supports grassroots groups working for environmental justice andsustainability worldwide. The nonprofit, which generally makesgrants of between $500 and $5,000, has a network of 100 volunteeradvisors around the globe local scientists, journalists, engi-neers, physicians, and activist leaders who are tapped into regionalneeds, and who facilitate selection of grantees.

    Chet Tchozewski, Greengrants founder and executive direc-tor, points out that the global network is itself a rare resource,arming the organization with scarce knowledge and information.


    Development directors can take advantageof the scarcity rule by uncovering anddescribing their organizations uncommonor unique features.


    The network allows the fund to make grants in places where oth-ers generally dont. In 2000, for example, Tchozewski says Green-grants was the only U.S. grantmaker to provide an environ-mental grant to Afghanistan, giving $1,000 to a Pakistani-basedorganization to organize Earth Day events in Kabul and solar cook-ing demonstrations in Afghan villages. Global GreengrantsFund is one of only a few sources of support to grassroots groupsaround the world, its Web site explains. Less than 2 percent ofU.S. giving goes to international causes and only a fraction of thatgoes to support grassroots environmental groups.4 Donors whogive therefore make a unique contribution to international causes.

    Tchozewski says individual and foundation donors who wantto make overseas grants, but dont have the same access to globalresources, will often give to Greengrants because of its localnetworks. We are starting to work with large environmentalgroups, he adds, who are coming to us because such networksare remarkably rare.

    Nonprofits can also curry allegiance and encourage futuregiving by providing major givers with access and perks unavail-able to the public.

    Kay Sprinkel Grace, a San Francisco-based consultant whoadvises nonprofits, advocates this approach. In the mid-1990s, for

    example, she advised the Grace Cathedral in San Francisco to offermajor donors a topping off opportunity. With the church stillunder construction, top givers were invited to visit the site andwrite personal messages on the inner walls and pipes, whichwere later boarded over, sealing the messages inside the defin-ition of a limited time offer.

    The idea is to provide access to what you would not be ableto see otherwise, Sprinkel Grace said. Thats where the big influ-ence point is on this for nonprofits.

    AUTHORITYThere exists a kind of expert worship in most cultures. Peopleare very willing to follow the suggestions of legitimate authori-ties. This represents a kind of shortcut that people can use todecide what to do and usually be right without having to thinktoo much about a situation.

    Consider one study, in which researchers arranged for a 31-year-old man to violate the law by crossing the street against thered light and into traffic. In half the instances, he was dressed ina business suit and tie. The rest of the time, he wore a work shirtand trousers. The researchers found that three times as many

    The Boy Who Cried Scarcity

    The threat of potential loss plays alarge role in human decision mak-ing. When uncertain, people are moti-vated more by the thought of losingsomething than by the thought ofgaining something of equal value.

    In a study done in California,researchers checked peoples homesand advised them to insulate theirhouses to save energy. Half of thehomeowners were told how muchthey would save every day if theyinsulated their homes fully. The otherhalf were told how much theyd loseevery day if they didnt. It was thesame amount of money, but thosewho heard how much theyd losewere significantly more likely to insu-late their homes. In a similar vein,physicians letters to smokers describ-

    ing the number of years of life thatwould be lost if they didnt quit weremore effective than letters describingthe number of years that would begained if they did.1

    When trying to persuade contribu-tors, fundraisers shouldnt only tellpotential donors the benefits and ser-vices that stand to be gained fromdonations; they should tell themabout all the benefits and servicesthat stand to be lost from a lack ofdonations.

    But development directors beware.Such threats can cause a boomerangeffect. So says Kay Sprinkel Grace, anindependent nonprofit consultant,whose clients currently include thePublic Broadcasting System andNational Public Radio. Sprinkel Grace

    says that for a long time, public televi-sion and radio issued an impliedthreat during fundraising marathons:If watchers or listeners didnt give,public TV and radio would disappear.

    The problem was it never hap-pened, so it was like the boy cryingwolf, she said. People soon figureout, I dont really have to give. Its stillhere. Theyll get the money fromsomeone else.

    The whole idea of scarcity is veryinfluential to a point, she added,and beyond that point it loses itsinfluence completely. RC

    1 Wilson, D.K.; Purdon, S.E.; and Wallston, K.A.Compliance to Health Recommendation: A The-oretical Overview of Message Framing, HealthEducation Research: Theory and Practice 3 (1998):161-171.

  • pedestrians were swept along behind the maninto traffic, against the light and against thelaw, when he wore a suit illustrating the powerthat just the appearance of authority can have onhuman behavior.

    This rule provides a tool for nonprofit lead-ers who want to be more influential. Too manyindividuals who are genuine experts bungleaway the opportunity to use this potent rule.They do so, for instance, by trying to persuadewould-be donors without first mentioningtheir credentials, background, and experiencein the matter.

    The Monterey Bay Aquarium, which hasabout 1.8 million visitors each year, has devel-oped an innovative strategy that taps into theauthority rule. The aquarium is perhaps bestknown for its million-gallon Outer Bay tank,home to tuna, sharks, ocean sunfish, and sea tur-tles. But as part of its commitment to ocean con-servation, the aquarium also publishes SeafoodWatch, a wallet-sized card listing seafood inthree categories best choices, proceed withcaution, and avoid depending on how fishand shellfish are caught and farmed, andwhether stocks are depleted. Patrons pick up thecards for free at the aquarium and participatingrestaurants, or download them from the Web site.5 Diners thenuse the cards as guides at restaurants. So, for instance, they wouldknow that Pacific halibut is an eco-friendly meal, while monkfishand Atlantic swordfish are out.

    The main idea behind the card is to raise awareness about sus-tainable oceans, and ultimately to influence fishing practices.Most people dont consider themselves knowledgeable in the leastabout fisheries, says Jim Hekkers, the aquariums executive vicepresident. They therefore will defer to the aquarium when order-

    ing dinner or standing at the grocery seafoodcounter.

    It also serves to remind patrons, morebroadly, that the aquarium is a leading experton ocean conservation. The card itself show-cases highly specific information that con-servationists would be hard-pressed to findanyplace else. It includes a link to the aquar-ium Web site, which explains how the staffresearches and evaluates each seafood item onthe guide and works with fishery and aqua-culture experts to gather information. Webbrowsers who click on About SeafoodWatch can peruse a searchable online data-base and download peer-reviewed reports onspecies from pink abalone to yesso scallops.6

    So far, the aquarium has distributed closeto one million cards since the program beganin 2000. Its not a direct fundraising appeal,Hekkers said, [but] it increases the credibilityof the organization and it makes people moreprone to either join as members or contributeas donors.

    Global Greengrants also takes another step,establishing itself not only as an authority, butas a credible authority.

    Research shows that credibility consists oftwo separate features: knowledge and trustworthiness. A credibleexpert is first of all knowledgeable, but also can be trusted to pro-vide information in a way that is honest and not self-serving. Bothfactors are important, but of the two, it is usually more difficult

    to establish trustworthiness. Even acknowledged experts willnot be persuasive unless they are also viewed as trustworthy.

    One way advertisers establish trustworthiness is to first saysomething that seems contrary to their interests perhaps theymention that a competitor has a good product or that their own


    Three times as many pedestrians wereswept along behind the man intotraffic,against the light and against thelaw, when he wore a suit.

    The Monterey Bay Aquarium handsout free cards that help people decidewhat fish to eat. The card remindspatrons that the aquarium is anauthority on ocean conservation.



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    product has some minor drawback. Think of Avis car rental com-mercial: Were number two, but we try harder. By coming outand saying it is not number one, Avis establishes honesty.

    How does Greengrants employ this rule? Consider this blurb,which appears on the funds Web site, explaining its grantmak-ing model: It is hard for grantmakers to identify grassrootsgroups in remote areas; it is hard to transfer funds; and it is hardto monitor grantee progress. Combined, these obstacles canmake grassroots grantmaking a challenging enterprise.

    At first glance, such an admission may seem strange. After all,Greengrants needs donors to fund it, despite the challenging odds.The admission, however, is followed quickly with a positiveassertion: Global Greengrants Fund has created a highly efficientand reliable system for finding and funding local grassroots envi-ronmental groups. By forming an international network of advi-sory boards for specific regions and environmental issues, westreamline our grantmaking and help link our advisors andgrantees in a community that can share knowledge, viewpoints,and strategies.

    Many fundraisers describe both the strengths and weaknessesof their case; but most start with the strengths before droppingin the weaknesses. Mention the drawbacks first that a given grant

    will only impact one small aspect of a larger societal problem and only then bring up the strongest arguments. The conse-quence should be not only effective, but ethical as well.

    CONSISTENCYA pair of Canadian psychologists uncovered something fasci-nating about people at the racetrack: just after placing bets theyare much more confident than they are immediately before.7

    Nothing about the horses chances actually shifts; its the samehorse, on the same track, in the same field. But in the bettorsminds, the horses prospects improve significantly.

    The dramatic change is caused by a common tool of socialinfluence that lies deep within people, directing their actionswith quiet power. It is, quite simply, a desire to be (and to appear)consistent with what we have already done. Once we make achoice or take a stand, social and internal pressures prompt us tobehave consistently with that commitment.

    Research indicates that a persons sense of commitmentdeepens even further if the commitment is made voluntarily andpublicly, and if it is written. Donors, for example, are much morelikely to fulfill pledges that are uncoerced, public, and put in ink.


    ReciprocityPeople try to repay, in kind, what Uncover and point out services and Girl Scouts invited key members of Congressanother person has provided them. benefits that your organization and executive agency officials to visit

    already provides for a community, troops in public housing complexes. corporation, or individual.

    ScarcityOpportunities seem more valuable Uncover and describe your organi- Global Greengrants Web site points out when they are less available. zations uncommon or unique features that it is one of very few U.S. groups that

    that cannot be found elsewhere. support international grassroots organizations.

    AuthorityPeople tend to defer to legitimate Uncover and communicate your Monterey Bay Aquarium distributes freeauthorities as a decision-making organizations expertise. Seafood Watch pocket guides showcasing shortcut. their own research on sustainable fisheries.

    ConsistencyOnce people make a choice or take a Invite board members to declare At the end of a board retreat, St. Lukesstand, they encounter personal or publicly what they are willing to do, Hospital asked foundation trustees to state interpersonal pressures to behave and get them to write it down. publicly and specifically what they would consistently with that commitment. Encourage active involvement from commit to do for the capital campaign.

    would-be donors.

  • Suppose a nonprofit wanted to increase the number of peo-ple who would agree to go door-to-door collecting donations. Itwould be wise to study the approach taken by social psycholo-gist Steven J. Sherman. He simply called a sample of Blooming-ton, Ind., residents as part of a survey and asked them to predictwhat they would say if asked to spend three hours collectingmoney for the American Cancer Society. Not wanting to seemuncharitable, many of these people said they would volunteer.The consequence of this subtle commitment procedure was a 700percent increase in volunteers when, a few days later, a repre-sentative of the American Cancer Society did call and ask for neigh-borhood canvassers.8

    Sprinkel Grace advises her clients to utilize the rule on boardretreats by asking board members to make voluntary declara-tions indicating what they would be willing to do, specifically, tohelp make a capital campaign a success. Sometimes, she advises

    board members to make their pledges publicly, at the end of theretreat. (I will take one person to lunch, or I will make fourphone calls.)

    Part of the strength of the approach, Sprinkel Grace says, isthat it allows board members to sign up for work that mostappeals to them. Another strength, she says, is that the pledgesare voluntary.

    Sprinkel Grace recently advised this approach for the St.Lukes Health Care Foundation in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The foun-dation CEO had been discouraged by a failure to get board mem-bers actively involved. So, at the end of a board retreat in Feb-ruary, board members were invited to read out what they werewilling to do, based on their own individual strengths. Somepromised to bring would-be donors on hospital tours; otherspromised to contact a certain number of people by years end;still others said they would work to establish concrete rela-tionships with a specific local community.

    As a result of the commitments, the board members have beenfollowing up on their pledges like never before. Every single oneof them listed at least one thing they would do, Sprinkel Grace

    said. Its made all the difference in the world.Ultimately, the best evidence of peoples true feelings and

    beliefs comes less from their words than from their deeds.Researchers have discovered that people use their own behaviorto decide what they are like.9

    The rippling impact of past behavior on future behavior canbe seen in studies investigating the effect of active versus passivecommitments.10 In one study, college students volunteered for anAIDS education project. The researchers arranged for half to vol-unteer actively by filling out a form. The other half volunteeredpassively by failing to fill out a form stating that they didnt wantto participate. When asked to begin their volunteer activity, 74percent who appeared for duty came from the ranks of those whohad actively agreed to participate.11

    Once an active commitment is made, self-image is squeezedfrom both sides. From the inside, there is a pressure to bring self-

    image into line with action. From the outside, there is a pressureto adjust this image according to the way others perceive us.12

    PULLING IT ALL TOGETHERReciprocity, scarcity, authority, and consistency are four power-ful tools of influence when employed separately. But to maximizeimpact, nonprofit leaders should utilize the tools in concert.

    Claudia Looney, senior vice president of development for Chil-drens Hospital Los Angeles, understands the power of such anapproach. Her fundraising strategy, which has raised $310 mil-lion over the past three years, taps all four rules.

    For Looney, one key is getting would-be givers to visit the hos-pital. The traditional approach of having potential donors readbrochures about the institute is not enough, she says. For peo-ple of influence and affluence, we take a more hands-on approach.It makes a big impact when we take a prospect on a tour and havethem see for themselves our young patients and their familiesreceiving specialized care.

    About four years ago, for instance, the hospital began court-


    The best evidence of peoples true feelingsand beliefs comes less from their wordsthan from their deeds. People use their ownbehavior to decide what they are like.


    ing a potential donor who had an interest in cancer research, alongwith her husband. Officials running the hospitals cancer campaignmet the couple and invited them to the hospital to learn more.

    Before the couple arrived, Looney and her staff planned adown-to-the minute schedule intended to maximize persuasiveimpact. Doctors were given talking points ahead of time;team members understood in advance the specific goals.

    At the hospital, the couple met two key researchers testing anew leukemia drug; they were told that if the drugs were ulti-mately successful, they could boost survival rates from 15 to 85percent. The potential donors looked through the microscopes,examining slides firsthand. Later, they met the head of the oncol-ogy program and toured the neonatal intensive care unit. At lunch,they met with several doctors who explained what the futuremight hold with enough funding.

    The hospital continued cultivating the relationship for sometime, inviting the couple to small dinner parties at the homes ofhospital trustees. They were invited to volunteer on a hospital advi-sory committee; the woman joined the board. It was after atrustee dinner that the couple gave $25,000, followed by a gift of$1 million.

    The courtship, as it turned out, was a clinic in ethical per-suasion. The day at the hospital allowed Looney to tap the reci-procity rule, uncovering for the couple the many services, ben-efits, and advantages that Childrens Hospital Los Angeles wasalready providing for cancer patients in the community. Thecouple was afforded scarce access to physicians, labs, and patientfacilities, and had unprecedented contact with researchers, yield-ing a trove of privileged information. The hospital also tappedthe scarcity rule by alerting the couple to unique research targetinga cure for leukemia. The meetings highlighted the hospitalsauthority and expertise by putting world-class oncologists and can-cer researchers front and center. Before long, the couples com-mitment had moved beyond simply intellectual interest andbecome active; their gifts were behaviorally consistent with allthe time and energy they had committed to the hospital.

    If people dont resonate with the cause, Looney says, thenthey are not going to support you. They have to live it, breathe

    it, and understand it.Understanding the rules of influence how they work,

    and how to use them in the service of a cause is a great placeto start.

    1 The two other principles are social proof (people view a behavior as correct in agiven situation to the degree that they see others performing it), and liking (peo-ple prefer to say yes to individuals they know, are similar to, and like). These rulesare intrinsic to nonprofit fundraising. For instance, a donor might decide to givebecause several other well-known community members have already given (socialproof ); or, a donor might give because a friend, peer, colleague, or co-worker isdoing the asking (liking). Because these rules are so widely employed by modern-day fundraisers, we focus our analysis on the other four, which present muchuntapped growth potential.2 Kunz, P.R. and Woolcott, M. Seasons Greetings: From My Status to Yours, SocialScience Research 5 (1976): 269-278. 3 Paese, P.W. and Gilin, D.A. When an Adversary is Caught Telling the Truth, Per-sonality and Social Psychology Bulletin 26 (2000): 79-90.4 See See See Knox, R.E. and Inkster, J.A. Postdecision Dissonance at Post Time, Journal of Per-sonality and Social Psychology 8 (1968): 319-323.8 Sherman, S. J. On the Self-Erasing Nature of Errors of Prediction, Journal of Per-sonality and Social Psychology 39 (1980): 211-221.9 Bem, D. J. Self-Perception: An Alternative Explanation of Cognitive DissonancePhenomena, Psychological Review 74 (1967): 183-200.10 Allison, S.T. and Messick, D.M. The Feature-Positive Effect, Attitude Strength,and Degree of Perceived Consensus, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 14(1988): 231-241.11 Cioffi, D. and Garner, R. On Doing the Decision: The Effects of Active VersusPassive Choice on Commitment and Self-Perception, Personality and Social Psychol-ogy Bulletin 22 (1996): 133-147.12 Schlenker, B.R.; Dlugolecki, D.W.; and Doherty, K.J. The Impact of Self-Presen-tations on Self-Appraisals and Behavior: The Power of Public Commitment, Person-ality and Social Psychology Bulletin 20 (1994): 20-33

    Reciprocity, scarcity, authority, and consistency are four powerful tools whenemployed separately. But for maximumimpact, they should all be used at once.

    CialdiniCover.pdfThe Power of PersuasionBy Robert B. Cialdini

    Stanford Social Innovation ReviewDO NOT COPY

    CialdiniCover.pdfThe Power of PersuasionPutting the Science of Influence to Work in FundraisingBy Robert B. Cialdini

    Stanford Social Innovation ReviewDO NOT COPY


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