Is your “ask string” ask backwards?

End Yr “Ask String” Guesswork


Yes, there is a science to Ask Strings. And it’s way more subtle than I expected.

[  ] $250  [  ] $500  [  ] $1,000

Ask strings: they’re everywhere in fundraising; a convention of direct mail reply devices and pretty much every website’s giving page.

But what are the magic numbers? Which amounts work best? What’s worth testing? For that matter, why do ask strings even exist? Are there maybe better ways to conjure up a gift?

As a public service, data-enthusiast Nick Ellinger took on the question of “ask strings.”

It turned out to be a sprawling research project, yielding an entertaining, deep-diving 28-page PDF report, downloadable for free from DonorVoice.

The good news for all you time-pressed fundraisers? Every page yields lucrative insights worth encountering at least once in your career.

For instance: Even though Nick’s nominal topic is “The Science of Ask Strings,” this PDF offers the jazziest discussion of anchoring and neuroscience I’ve yet encountered. In fact, reading these 28 pages actually saves you the trouble of plowing through a half-dozen books.

He’s got your Kahneman, your Ariely, your Cialdini. He explains why Christians lean in to sets of three … why Chinese culture loves the number 8 … and why Jewish donors are especially responsive to multiples of 18.

He examines the advantages of higher response rates and lower average gifts vs. lower response rates and higher average gifts … through the lens of Harry Potter.

Thank you, Nick, for this landmark piece.

The admirably geeky Mr. Ellinger occasionally makes me feel like a poorly informed poseur and guess-wit. (My self-esteem problem; not his intention.)

Which is exactly what I look for in an expert.

Nick writes clean, swift, sure prose. And he’s stand-up comedian funny to boot.

You’ll learn why you buy too many cookies from the Girl Scout who comes to your door … and why “we are not Spock.”.

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Nick Ellinger is VP of Marketing Strategy at DonorVoice. For 9 years he ran Mothers Against Drunk Driving’s offline and online marketing, fundraising and communications efforts.

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