CCAH Blog: Industry Voices

Decision Science: Finding New Ways to Know Our Donors

Posted by Brenna Holmes on Oct 25, 2013 1:33:00 PM

Emily LautenBy Emily Lauten, Interactive Department | Feel like you’ve tried every test under the sun? Looking for new fundraising tests that actually provide donor insights? Look to decision science. Fundamentally, decision science is the study of how and why people make the choices they do.  CCAH’s journey into the world of decision science was spawned by Dave Acup, Managing Director of Interactive Marketing & Membership at Environmental Defense Fund. EDF was interested in looking at the root of why people make choices, and that interest has helped us know what kinds of test to administer. What do we test? How do we innovate?

Throughout the year, EDF and CCAH have been working hand-in-hand with Mike Price, an economist from Georgia State University to implement, analyze, and organize the complicated decision science tests. Economists and fundraisers speak very different languages but quite often have the same objective: finding ways to encourage people to give and raise as much money as possible for their cause..

In this way, decision science could help us define and create the variables and right kinds of tests that are going to help us better understand what truly motivates our donors to give. Applicable across channels, it offers something more consistent when the number of communication channels keeps expanding.

Just with EDF, we’ve implemented over forty decision science tests so far and have many more planned as the year-end fundraising season rapidly approaches. Copy tone tests aimed at determining whether their audience is more motivated by successes or areas of continued need, and others, have given us greater insight into EDF’s donor file and allowed us to further optimize the donor’s experience. It’s all about understanding what drives a donor to give and smoothing the path so they DO give.

Recently Dave, Mike, and I brought EDF’s decision science findings to the Science of Philanthropy Initiative’s annual conference in Chicago. On a panel titled, "Behavioral Economics: The Tools of the Trade,” we discussed how decision science is revolutionizing EDF’s fundraising efforts and testing strategy across all channels. The goal of the conference was to get economists working hand-in-hand with practitioners to optimize fundraising across channels. The collaboration of the academic and practitioner provides scientists like Mike the opportunity to test these decision science ideas in a real world setting. And EDF learns more about its donors through complicated data analysis and execution that Mike’s team helps implement.

The partnership between CCAH, EDF, and the academic world is breaking ground in the fundraising world and providing innovative new understandings about the decisions of our donors. 

For further information on the Science of Philanthropy Initiative check out their website. And if you’d like to learn how decision science can help your organization, just contact us!

Please tell us about any decision science tests that you’ve implanted in the comments section, we’d love to hear about it.

Topics: nonprofit fundraising, testing, conferences, effective emailng, cross channel marketing, Chapman Cubine Adams Hussey, supporter loyalty, EDF, decision science