blogged about the effects of directly talking about the credit crunch in appeal copy in early December. I’m now able to share details about the test. It was undertaken with The Prostate Cancer Charity as part of their Christmas appeal.

We mailed two packs that were virtually identical. We featured the same copy, same projects and made the same asks. The only difference was that the test version spoke directly about the effects of the economic downturn.

Nisha Motwani, Head of Individual Giving at The Prostate Cancer Charity neatly sums up the thinking behind the test:

“There seemed to be a lot of charity sector speculation as to whether people will give less in the current climate, but there wasn’t any hard evidence to support this either way so we decided to carry out a pro-active test to see what would the best way to actually talk to donors during a recession.”

In terms of the results, we found that response rates across the file were broadly the same. Where we noticed a real difference was in the average gift for the higher value segments.

For the credit crunch version:

  • the low-value segment generated an average gift £4 lower than the control
  • the main mid-value segment generated an average gift £20 lower than the control.
  • the high-value segment generated an average gift a massive 45% less than the control.

We had speculated that mentioning the impact of the downturn might encourage donors to give a little more. But this wasn’t the case. As Nisha says:

“It would seem that if you remind people of the economic situation, it introduces or reinforces any doubts they might have about their own financial security, so they give less.”

Amber Nathan, Bluefrog’s researcher, found the results supported her findings from recent (and on-going) interviews with mid-value donors about giving during this recession. Amber’s take on the situation is that:

“The economic situation isn’t always front-of-mind. Not because donors aren’t concerned – but because their coping mechanism is to not think about it – in the same way that we might manage any negative thoughts. It’s only when you ask them to think about it that they express concern, as is reflected in the smaller gifts.”

This test was obviously for a healthcare charity. Results may be different for organisations involved in other areas of work.