Do the Right Adjectives Really Lead to Bigger Donations?

Written by Bernadette Doré on . Posted in Blog

A few members of the WorldLink team recently kicked-off an employee workshop with an ice breaker asking the participants to describe qualities that they look for in friends. Within minutes, the employees listed eight; next they were asked whether any of these adjectives described their nonprofit.  Many employees thought several words did including loyal, honest, compassionate and responsible.

Certainly this characterization is high praise for the organization and according to recent research these adjectives could be mirrored to drive higher philanthropic donations.  Jen Shang, Ph.D. who specializes in the psychology of giving has identified a handful of words that prompt donors to give more.  In a recent New York Times interview, Dr. Shang replied as follows:

Q. You write that nonprofits can increase contributions “by changing a handful of words in a solicitation.” What are those magic words?

A. There are nine adjectives Americans use to describe a moral person: kind, caring, compassionate, helpful, friendly, fair, hard-working, generous and honest.

Q. What words in solicitations prompt men to give more?

A. The adjectives that male donors used during our focus groups include strong, responsible, and loyal.

The participants at the WorldLink workshop identified four out of twelve adjectives to describe their nonprofit – not too bad!  Maybe the next time their development office sends a donation letter, they should use a few of the words endorsed by their staff.  After all, according to Shang, women have been found to donate 10% more when these adjectives are used.

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