Everyone knows about persuasion, but what about PRE-suasion?

Recently I was reading a book called Pre-suasion by Robert Cialdini. You may know his name because he wrote a famous book called Persuasion that people use a lot. Some concepts from this book include Liking-helping people like you, by Highlighting similarities between you and providing compliments, or the concept of Reciprocity: Give a meaningful, unexpected and customized gift, and watch the person do what you want later on.

He talked a lot about how we get people ready to be persuaded.

There were so many examples from research that half of the book is simply citations from longer studies. Mercifully these sections were all at the back, so if you just want a quick read, you can read the beginning of the book and skip the end.

Why should you care about this?

Let me get straight to the point.

If you want to keep your job, you need to think about who you’re persuading and how to get them ready to give you donations.

Whether you put this in your next appeal letter, enewsletter, or use these tips at your next speaking engagement for your nonprofit, you are going to get people ready to donate to you if you do these things.


Tip 1: Admit your weaknesses up front.

Believe it or not, I was interviewing Vanessa Chase last week and she said this exact same thing about the stories your nonprofit tells. One of your stories should be about your mistakes or your weaknesses. When you admit your mistakes it makes people trust you more. You might think the opposite is true, but it isn’t. When you’re brave enough to name and claim your mistakes, your donor doesn’t have to wonder, “what are they NOT telling me?” You create a reputation for honesty, and establish an atmosphere of trust. Only a very confident person would admit their mistakes and weaknesses! (or so your donor would be thinking, subconsciously).


Tip 2:  Create unity by connecting with your donor’s values.

How do you create unity in words? Say “We are this way. WE believe in this. Therefore we live our values in the world by doing this good work.” Faith based organizations are especially good at this.

What are the values your nonprofit believes in? Why do you do what you do? What does this mean for your donors?

Let’s say you’re a policy nonprofit, working on protecting wild lands. You know that down the line, birds will not be able to migrate safely if you don’t protect these lands. So your values could be, “Let us save birds against man-made disaster!”

What if you’re a nonprofit that helps people with developmental disabilities? Your values might be, “Winston Churchill once said, The measure of a society is in the way it treats its most vulnerable members. How will we stack up?”


Tip 3: Use Magnetizers. Magnetizers are the self relevant, the unfinished and the mysterious.

Now let’s hear from Albert Einstein. He claimed that the most beautiful thing we can experience, and the source of all true science, and art, is the mysterious.

How do you go about “building a mystery”?

How indeed?

Here’s what Robert Cialdini suggests.

Step 1. Pose the mystery
Step 2. Deepen the mystery
Step 3. Hone in on the explanation by considering and offering evidence against alternative explanations
Step 4. Provide a clue to the proper explanation
Step 5. Resolve the mystery
Step 6. Draw the implications for the whole field

So how do you do the first step?

How can you pose the mystery in your next speaking engagement? In your newsletter? In your appeal letter?

You can ask a riddle. For example, “When is a camel not a camel? When it’s a mobile library!”

Or you can use this in direct mail, with the techniques below.

Here’s how greenpeace poses a mystery.

Here’s how a nonprofit that helps the blind poses a mystery on their appeal letter envelope.

What’s something that sets you apart? That makes you unique? What are some common misconceptions about your cause? How can you pose a question that intrigues people with this misconception?

What ideas does this give you?