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Wow Factor! Applying the power of magic moments for increased income

Rob Woods explains how small, thoughtful acts can make all the difference to your donors.

On my way home the other day I stopped at the Pret-A-Manger at St Pancras station, London, for some tea and a bit of cake before heading for my train. As I took out my wallet, the server smiled and said ‘no charge, this is all on the house’.

You can imagine how after a long, tiring day this surprise cheered up my evening considerably.

It turns out that the catalyst for my moment of happiness was only half spontaneous. In the excellent, Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath, they explain that Pret-A-Manger employees are in fact allowed to give away a certain number of hot drinks/food items every week. The Chief Executive of Pret, Clive Schlee estimates that 28% of people have had something free.

More wow moments increase loyalty and therefore income...

There are two smart business reasons for Pret to be doing this. Not only does it predictably ensure that in any given week, a significant number of customers are being given a pleasant surprise, creating both increased loyalty and positive word of mouth – the first time it happened I was so chuffed that I told several friends and I shared it on Twitter.

But also, importantly, empowering staff to use their discretion and deliberately ‘break the script’ has a positive effect on staff morale. Seeing my face go from tired to confused to happily surprised when given free cake, was probably quite fun for the person who served me.

The Power of Moments, is a fascinating read full of insights that can be applied to many areas of life, including fundraising. In the book, the authors show that we tend not to remember all elements of an experience equally. Instead, our lasting impression of something tends to be disproportionately affected by the best, worst and last moments of that experience, and we largely forget the rest.

Though this strikes a chord with most people’s experience of life, the book points out that too often we fail to deliberately create more positive, ‘wow’ moments, for ourselves and our supporters/customers.

There are many reasons for this, but one is that we’re usually so busy dealing with problems, difficult employees, challenging donors etc. (i.e. we’re in ‘defense mode’) that we rarely have time to proactively create the wow moments.

How can this concept help fundraisers?

In one of my recent Breakfast Clubs for Fundraising Leaders, individual giving expert Craig Linton (aka The Fundraising Detective) gave a fascinating talk about how to deliberately create more positive, memorable moments for your donors.

Here are just a few of the tactics he has found to work. From the list, my advice is not to look out for ideas that you’ve never had before, but instead to ask yourself how you could deliberately make these activities more likely to happen.

1. Send birthday and anniversary cards
Surprise donors by wishing them a happy birthday or sending them something to celebrate an anniversary of their giving.

2. Thank sponsors of marathon runners on race day
Charities spend a lot of time stewarding people who take part in events, but how much time do you spend on the people who generously sponsor those runners and cyclists? For instance, the day of the event is a great opportunity to send them a thank you message and encouraging them to send a message to cheer on their friend who is doing the race.

3. Thank you films and WOW them
At certain charities, including Charity Water and Send a Cow – their thank you days involve the whole organisation and they have worked really hard at creating fantastic films to thank donors.

4. I saw this and thought of you

Send a press clipping on a subject that you know the supporter is interested in or have given to before.

5. Your thank you page

When someone makes an online donation, what page do you send them to on your website? Is it personalised? Does it tell a story? Could you use video to make people feel great about having donated?

6. Make it stand out

Adding a Post-it note, handwritten message or even using a different colour pen, all get your message noticed and make it feel more personal. (In a recent course for the Bright Spot Members Club, Charly White demonstrated the marked uplift in giving from mid-level donors when they receive more personalised, high-touch communication).

Award-winning trainer Rob Woods has worked in fundraising since January 2000. Originally a major gifts fundraiser for the NSPCC, since becoming an independent trainer and coach in 2007 he has helped thousands of fundraisers and directors, chief executives and trustees.

Find out more about Rob and his work at

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