Episode 34: How to craft a winning social media fundraising message- according to science

When it comes to crafting a fundraising message, or framing the ask, there is a lot of conflicting advice out there. Some people say to be as specific as possible. But others say giving too much detail makes donors less empathetic.

Some advice says that fundraising messages should be framed positively because it shows donors what is possible with their help and gives people hope. But then other advice says that we should frame messages negatively because it elicits empathy.

So, which is it? Should we use our limited wordcount to craft social media fundraising messages filled with a lot of detail or keep things abstract? Should we frame messages positively or negatively?

These are the questions researchers Xiao, Huang, Bortree, and Waters sought to answer through their work. Their article, Designing social media fundraising messages: an experimental approach to understanding how message concreteness and framing influence donation intentions offers us guidelines for crafting social media messages.

Here’s what you can expect to take away from this episode…

⦿ How concrete vs. abstract fundraising messages influence donor behavior

⦿ How positively vs. negatively framed fundraising messages influence donor behavior

⦿ How framing your message appropriately for your target audience can help you raise more money on social media


⦿ [4:18] Message concreteness is how specific a message is whereas gain or loss framing highlights either the positive or negative consequences of acting- in this case the action is donating.
⦿ [6:37] The how is just as important as the what- because unless we understand the mechanism by which concrete messages persuade donors, we won’t know which details to provide or how to adequately harness this idea for our benefit.
⦿ [9:31] A gain message focuses on the positive consequences of action, and a loss message focuses on the negative consequences of inaction.
⦿ [11:58] So if concrete messages increase donations and loss-framed messages increase donations, can we put the two together to create an even greater influence on giving?
⦿ [16:48] The details need to lend to the organization’s credibility and they need to increase empathy.
⦿ [17:43] I think you need to have a clear goal in mind for your fundraising campaign- so if you’re going on social media trying to recruit new donors, you want to keep the message positive, but if you’re trying to convince your current donors to give more, negative messaging could increase empathy and encourage them to give more.

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⦿ Article: Designing social media fundraising messages: an experimental approach to understanding how message concreteness and framing influence donation intentions
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