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Downes Murray International News

"Reciprocity" goes both ways

They gave you their hard-earned money. What can you give them back, to fulfill the psychological dictates of ‘reciprocity’?

We humans are a bit hard-wired to give back when we receive. We feel the need to reciprocate, for some evolutionary reason.

It’s a well-known psychological phenomenon, sanctified by Dr. Robert Cialdini as one of ‘the six universal principles of social influence’. In his best-selling book Influence: Science & Practice, Cialdini defines ‘reciprocation’ as we feel obligated to return favors performed by us.’

I would add: even when we didn’t actually ask for the so-called ‘favor’, as charities that mail up-front premiums know so well. Thank reciprocity... that when a charity sends you yet more unwanted self-sticking address labels for letters you never write (and that thought’s making you a bit suicidal right there), even so, even so you despise the things, STILL... you ARE more inclined to make a gift than if there WERE no so-called “premium” in the envelope.

Those coins taped to appeals? Same thing: reciprocity. That religious medal that might even be blessed? Reciprocity. That unsolicited calendar that’s too pretty to throw away? “Look at those cute puppies!” Reciprocity.

The other shoe

But this is what charities don’t always get: once the donor makes a gift, then the shoe’s back on the other foot. Your foot to be exact: it’s now your charity’s turn to reciprocate... in thanks and reporting.

It goes like this: The donor has given you (the charity) something. What will you (the charity) give in return? That’s reciprocation, full circle. But here’s the thing.

You might not realize it... but you actually do have something to give back to the donor that’s of great, probably inestimable – value for many of them... all those at least with standard-issue psychological software and hardware. Give them... your love. Your respect. Your admiration. Your jaw-dropped,
awestruck belief that super-humans do in fact walk the earth in disguise all the time: and they are your particular donors.

They are your family (even the crazy ones). They are your tribe. They are your people (and it takes all kinds). They are heroes. Your heroes. Everybody’s heroes. Donors help others. They are the non-psycho- and sociopaths in our society (until proven otherwise).

I believe that every donor communication should deliver the ‘gift of joy’ instantly. With their very first glance, gara donors should feel honored, welcomed, and thanked. They should know that this communication is about them! More than any other thing. They should know in the big type that they are essential.

"You complete me!"

Neurologist and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl concluded, “Humans are driven by a will to establish meaning in their lives. They need purpose.” Young Dr. Frankl, an Austrian

Jew, was interned for almost three years in such unthinkable hells as Auschwitz and Dachau. His wife, mother, and brother perished in Nazi death camps.

Except for a sister who’d emigrated earlier to Australia, none of his immediate family survived the Holocaust. Viktor Frankl knew more than most about the search for purpose and meaning in life.

Listen to him. Your job, as a donor communicator, is to bestow purpose and meaning in exchange for support. That’s ‘all’ you really have to do.
It’s simple. Most charities don’t do it very well, I guarantee you – yours included, probably. Bestowing purpose and meaning is a high calling. That’s what you can give your donor.

Aside from shopping bags, that’s really ALL you can give your donor: purpose. And, hey, when you do it well, what do you know? The reciprocity wheel spins again in your favor.

It is a perpetual motion machine. How do you make a lot more money for your charity? Reciprocate well.

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