Who Would You Rather Ask for a Gift: a Woman or a Man?

Published by Rory Green on

It started for me with direct mail.

See, today, my clients do not segment for gender. They send the very same appeal letter to men and women.

title photoBut, you have to wonder, could we attract maybe even more giving if our appeals were somehow “gender specific”?

What’s the science on that? Do men and women shop for charities in different ways? Is there a better way to write to women and a better way to write to men … to make a sale and get a gift?

We’re on the threshold of major improvements in donor communications. For instance, direct mail, the acquisition and renewal workhorse, is getting a new engine.

Dr. Adrian Sargeant and Jen Shang are entering their third year of tests on the monetary effects of “extreme donor-centricity” in direct mail appeals. They have a huge US charity as a cooperating partner. Results are encouraging. “Loverized” direct mail without premiums has pulled just as well as premium-enriched appeals — without the gimcracks.

The gender differences in philanthropy go beyond direct mail of course, to high net-worth individual giving.

voteno2A report from TD Bank in Canada found that, since 2004, the increase in the number of female donors in Canada has greatly exceeded that of male donors. The report confirms what many major gifts experts have been saying for some time: female donors need to be engaged deeply to unlock their full giving potential, and want to see the impact their gifts make with the cause.

More studies have been done on the subject, The Women’s Philanthropy Institute released a report in 2012, which found that “boomer and older women are more likely to give to charity and give more than their male counterparts when other factors affecting giving are taken into consideration”, despite the fact that boomer women tend to possess less wealth than their male counterparts.

bic penYet, we need to be careful when targeting female donors. We’ve seen gender based advertising approaches backfire before.  Bic pen released a pen aimed at women, only to have Ellen DeGeneres devote an entire monologue to making fun of the product, which received over 4.5 million views on YouTube.

We’ve also seen it backfire in politics. A recent television commercial aimed at women from “Better Together” (the campaign to keep Scotland in the UK) was a huge failure. The internet has had a field day pointing out the somewhat sexist nature of the commercial.

So, while differences in giving may exist between men and women – to what extent should a charity target communications to those different audiences? We still have some questions, and would love to hear from you:

  • In what ways do men and women behave differently in terms of philanthropy and giving?
  • Do you think gender-specific appeals would be successful to increase revenue?
  • Should fundraising approaches be different for men and women? If so, how?
  • What do you know on this topic?

-Tom & Rory



Tom Ahern is the author of several books on donor communications. Read more about Tom on www.aherncomm.com

Rory Green

Rory Green has been fundraising since the age of 10, when she volunteered to help run her school’s annual Bike-A-Thon for juvenile cancer research. Fundraising became her vocation at 14, when she lost a friend to Leukemia. Rory Green has been in the philanthropic sector for over eight years and is currently the Associate Director, Advancement for the Faculty of Applied Science at Simon Fraser University. Rory has also worked in major and corporate giving at BCIT and the Canadian Cancer Society. Her passion is donors. How to listen to them. How to talk to them. How to help them feel better about themselves through philanthropy than they ever thought possible. In her spare time Rory is the founder and editor of Fundraiser Grrl, the fundraising community’s go-to source for comic relief.


Michal · September 11, 2014 at 15:22

Thanks for raising this extremely interesting topic. A part of my says, of course men and women have different values and motivations driving their decision-making. Another part of me says, how much of this differentiation is down to gender, versus just individuals? And even if we do find that gender is significant, would using this information and putting it into practice hep the gender equity discourse? Help to change mentalities about gender? I guess I’m struggling with deciding what’s more important: gift revenue or the state of gender equity in the world… I would refer to studies in women’s behaviour in the workplace showing more diversity among women than between women and men. Do stay-at-home dads have similar giving behaviour to stay-at-home moms?

    Rory Green · September 11, 2014 at 22:53

    “I would refer to studies in women’s behaviour in the workplace showing more diversity among women than between women and me”

    That’s a really interesting point Michal – perhaps gender isn’t the most accurate way to segment your lists for target marketing.

Josh Hirsch · September 11, 2014 at 15:55

While ‘gender based advertising’ may have backfired in some instances, people are motivated to make purchases for various reasons. Using gender targeted language and imagery can be a benefit for corporations in the for-profit world, why not also in the non-profit world?

Maeve Strathy · September 11, 2014 at 16:08

I echo many of Michal’s comments. I also think this is a fascinating topic and I appreciate the candidness of this post.

In educational fundraising, I’ve often heard Canadian fundraisers note with jealousy the amount of information American schools have about their alumni and how intensely they can customize direct mail as a result. One person might receive a pamphlet with a picture of a student with one skin colour, whereas another alumnus might receive a pamphlet with a student of a different gender/skin colour.

Personally, I’ve always appreciated our approach as Canadians where we only get as much information as we need, and we don’t exploit that information. I worry that the risks of offending people by not treating them as equal aren’t worth the potential return of customized communications. Perhaps it’s naive, but like Michal, I see the main question as: “What’s more important – equality or total dollars raised?” If we’re experiencing success without treating our donors differently, at least with direct mail, then I’d rather stick with that.

Simon Scriver · September 11, 2014 at 16:10

Good post. You’re right that we need to be careful when targeting female donors – obviously there’s a difference between communicating differently and just being patronising (something Bic and BT failed at).

While I’ve always believed men and women are more similar than we make out, my therapist disagrees. She often points out that men try to find solutions to problems while women just want to talk about them.

Obviously there are individual exceptions – but in DM you have to play the odds.

We do a lot of monthly donor data analysis of men and women and we do find a couple of interesting differences. Firstly, men generally donate more (probably because they earn more). And also men are less likely to go through with their first gift after pledging to do so, and yet they are less likely to cancel – possibly proof that female donors are more decisive while men are lazy. :-)

    Rory Green · September 11, 2014 at 17:34

    “In DM you have to play the odds” – YES absolutely. When you have a database of millions of donors, you create targeted appeals by sub-dividing them into groups – age, giving patterns, etc.

    And maybe it isn’t as blunt as “Hey, you’re a woman, give to breast cancer!” – but maybe certain words tend to resonate more with women – for example word like: secret, love, heaven and magic have been tested to raise sales revenue with women. So, could subtle testing be done to see if using those words in an appeal increase giving among women? Yes perhaps.

    Lots to think about…

      George Overton · September 12, 2014 at 07:11

      I think you’ve got it Rory. It’s not about hand wringing, it’s all about testing. Virtually nothing’s out of the question when testing direct mail, including gender based tests.

Sonya Swiridjuk · September 11, 2014 at 16:26

A great read and conversation starter; thanks Tom and Rory! Over a decade ago, Stephen Thomas had a client which is now Prostate Canada Foundation. Extensive DM acquisition testing was done with gender-specific appeals, and as I recall one targetted to male recipients with the OE tagline “Let’s talk – man to man…” was a winning Control package for some time. Looking forward to the release of Adrian and Jen’s research results!

Amanda · September 11, 2014 at 16:48

As I work in major giving, I tend to make all my appeals and proposals specific to each individual donor. There are definitely more men than women that I engage with as prospects. What I find interesting is that gender isn’t a great predictor of what they’re interested in. The major project that I fundraise for has some very warm and fuzzy kid-related aspects and some very academic, industry related and research related aspects. Though I sometimes assume that male prospects, especially businessmen, will be more interested in the industry related and research related aspects, many are really excited about the kid related aspects. Similarly, there are some women who don’t care about the kid related aspects and are more interested in the research related aspects. Because major gifts fundraising is so donor-specific and targeted, I don’t think major gifts fundraising could benefit from gender segmentation, but it’s possible that annual giving or event fundraising could. Breast Cancer walks and Movember primarily target one gender and are wildly successful.

    Rory Green · September 11, 2014 at 17:47

    Great comment Amanda, thank you for weighing in.

    To further your point, I have recently been fundraising for programs aimed at getting more women doing computing education – I assumed women would be my target prospects, but I am having more success with potential male donors. So perhaps gender based appeals backfire when they are based on assumptions, instead of reality.

Andrew · September 11, 2014 at 17:07

In short, the idea of gender based asks/appeals is not something I would vouch for, or be happy to receive. My first thoughts go to ‘what about those that don’t fit gender norms’ or ‘how to trans, gender fluid, or agender individuals exist in this scenario’.

Echoing other commenters – is it gender that really decides these overall factors in philanthropy, or individual interests?

As fundraisers we collect information on our donors, so lets not be lazy and stick to the status quo of available information – name, address, gender, etc. when additional factors and interests may be at play.

With fundraising and charities being a force for good in our world, I feel that we can support our own cause while at the same time framing equality and progress in our day-to-day work.

Mary Cahalane · September 11, 2014 at 17:22

Wow… great topic. I’ve got thoughts and I’ve got questions.

My experience agrees that women are the ones that connect most emotionally. However, I’ve also seen that men are often the decision-makers in the household about money. The trick has been figuring out who to talk to in a couple to get results.

And, having spent so much time buried in my databases, I also wondered how you would put targeted messaging to work when the majority of your records are couples? Maybe there needs to be a third type of message? Maybe you need to learn and record who the person in the family is with the closest ties?

And then, as Michal says, generalizations are always wrong some of the time. I don’t think across the board men are stiff types who don’t respond to emotional stories.

So, maybe it still comes down to great stories – backed up with some facts to satisfy those who need them?

Good post, you two – lots to chew on!

Ivo Le M Smith · September 11, 2014 at 17:32

Stephen Pidgeon did some work on this whilst at Target Direct some 15 years ago. He should weigh in here but as I remember he found that writing Direct Mail appeals in different styles for men and women produced better results across the board. Of course you have to generalise, but broadly, women responded better to longer paragraphs, more detail, more colourful stories. Men responded better to bullet points, quick facts and a more businesslike style of appeal. What was interesting for me was that in his tests, the letters modified to appeal to women beat the control by a reasonable margin, but the letters modified to appeal to men smashed the control by a huge margin. I always wondered why the idea didn’t become standard practise.

    Stephen Pidgeon · September 12, 2014 at 09:46

    Ivo’s right though it was more like twenty years ago. Your memory’s pretty good!!
    We started by taking a famous four page cold recruitment letter about cataract operations in the Third World and reducing it to just over one page. We virtually used bullet points. Impact on women, a reduction in response of 9%. Impact on men was an uplift in response of I think 72%…massive! I thought gender specific fundraising had come to stay but the client simply adopted the new version as the control. I have pics of both versions.
    I felt it explained why most supporter databases are female biased, most fundraising copy suits women more than men.
    Our Royal Mail got very excited and invested quarter of a million pounds into the project, researching gender specific writing, though mostly in the commercial arena. And in the 90’s we began to see banks writing differently for men and women. But of course their products are considerably less emotional than fundraising with less scope to express key things in different ways.
    But Ivo’s right, the main difference was the amount and colour of the information that surrounded the proposition. Women seemed to need more of it, men less.

      James · September 12, 2014 at 12:32

      Hi Stephen,

      You may remeber some award winning work we did for MSF – we tested front images (so a male doctor vs female doctor). The difference for male prospects was not significant but for female prospects there was a very impressive jump – almost doubling the previous response rate from females.

      Another interesting question is whether men and women score differently on Green & Brocks Transportation scale – ie they have a greater tendency to be absorped into a stories narrative thereby triggering a stronger empathetic reaction.

      Some of the work being done at the ‘Values in action’ research centre at Cardiff University looks into this area if it’s of interest

      Ps hope all is well with the work you’re doing in Plymouth. Best wishes

        Stephen Pidgeon · September 15, 2014 at 20:37

        James, I remember the test and I’ve got the pics of both versions but I don’t remember the outcome (and you’re not quite clear about it) I think women doctor images pulled better with women, is that right? It was actually a better more dramatic pic and I’d love to see more work done testing images like that.

      Dennis Fischman · September 12, 2014 at 17:29

      I wonder if both men and women prefer shorter writing and more bullet points in this age of information overload? It would be great to see the same experiment tried today.

      Tom Ahern · September 13, 2014 at 21:46

      Thank you so much for that briefing, Stephen. I think your approach is definitely worth trying again. I’m going to see if I can find a client willing to take a shot.

        Stephen Pidgeon · September 15, 2014 at 20:38

        Tom, it would be terrific if you could do that. I’ll send you copy where I can of the original Help the Aged pack.

Sheena Greer · September 11, 2014 at 17:34

Another great topic!

For me, I think it comes down to two crucial points: know thyself, and know thy donor.

Know thyself. What does your organisation stand for? What do you do? A breast cancer charity is obviously focused on women, with an opportunity to draw in men affected by the disease. More men than women get Alzheimer’s but often wives become caregivers to partners who are diagnosed. Prostate cancer has done a great job with Movember, though I’ll admit I’d gladly not shave my legs for a month if someone encouraged me. These organisations have clearer boundaries, whereas a university, a hospital, or community organisation have broader targets. A great fundraiser has a deep understanding of both their organisation and their donors.

Know thy donor. In the end, if we practice what we preach, it’s about creating relationships with donors one-on-one. A fundraiser who knows me would know that “pink washing” something wouldn’t work, but appealing to my emotions as a parent, as a strong + fierce woman, a scotch drinker, or a raging bake-aholic would. I’m generally disgusted when I see posters for “International Women’s Day” that feature sparkly stilettos or a cartoonish skinny white lady in glitzy sunglasses. But I’ll deeply connect to the story of an ACTUAL international woman who has worked hard for her family and community.

Smart segmenting, of course, is more than “pink is for girls and blue is for boys” – that just doesn’t fly. Yet, there’s still a pink aisle and a blue aisle in the toy store, hardware flyers appeal to men, and Sears catalogs feature women’s clothing first. As Michal noted, is the bottom line or being mindful of gender equality more important? We know where for-profits stand on this. When gender is an issue in our sector, it becomes a deeper philosophical question simply by the nature of the work we do.

Yes, our job is to make money, but we’re also “saving the world” — gender, race, culture and socio-economic segregation are huge issues. Our dilemma becomes an age old “in the world but not of the world” struggle.

Hm. So what am I saying, besides chasing my own tail?

In what ways do men and women behave differently in terms of philanthropy and giving? Haha, all of them.

Do I think gender-specific appeals would be successful in increasing revenue? Maybe, if you don’t F it up.

Should fundraising approaches be different for men and women? Men pee standing up, women pee sitting down, but some men pee sitting down and some women don’t have time to pee. This is a mechanical approach, not an emotional one. Mechanics are pretty easy, and emotions or gender psychology certainly aren’t. If you’re confident you can approach a segmented donor base in an accessible and honourable way, do it. And for goodness sakes, talk about what worked and what didn’t.

What do I know on this topic? I know women are giving more – the interweb of statistics tells me this. But despite Chaka Khan claiming otherwise, there is no “every woman.” There is also no every man. We tread a tricky line as we inspire a love of all humanity – aiming for inclusion while focusing on that one-on-one relationship.

So if a charity wants to give me free cook books, free scotch, ask me about my kids, and encourage me to not shave my legs, I’m down.

    Rory Green · September 11, 2014 at 17:43

    First of all – I adore you Sheena. Full stop.

    Thinking about breast cancer – it seems like gender segmenting your donors may make some sense – ie, sending women DM about a survivor, speaking more to the fear women feel that they may deveop breast cancer – etc… VS as appeal to men that speaks more to having a woman you love be diagnosed…

      Sheena Greer · September 11, 2014 at 17:48

      Exactly. Then, thinking about a trickier organisation: The faculty of applied science at a university, for example.

      More men than women are likely represented. However, the women represented likely have a LOT of passion, drive and connection to the cause (simply because they probably had so many more hurdles to get to where they are) Their connection to their school might be deeper because they had to fight harder to get it. But can you talk to them about it in a way that is still inclusive, honourable, and sensitive? Likely (because you’re brilliant) – but you’d also know if something like this was appropriate in the first place.

      PS – I adore you, too!

Lesley Pinder · September 11, 2014 at 17:41

Brilliant topic. I’m a huge advocate of designing your fundraising for the target audience. If your testing and audience insight shows that women and men want different things from fundraising appeals or campaigns then to me it makes sense to put this in place. I wouldn’t do it just as a matter of course however! Gender targeting isn’t as simple as making it ‘feminine’ or ‘manly’ – it is more complex than that. It has to be insight and testing rather than opinion led.

An interesting example is the way that CRUK created Dryathlon – campaign that was very much targeted at men. They used insight from men about what motivates them to design the campaign from the outset. It was hugely successful. And yes, it did appeal to some women too. Just as Macmillan’s Coffee Morning recent refresh was built on the insight from women about what they need from a fundraising campaign. You’re never going to reach the needs of every single man or every single woman, but if you can find some common ground for the majority which will make your appeal or campaign sing more truthfully to them and therefore more succesful, why wouldn’t you?

So i guess my response to this is….yes, if it makes sense to do so!

Lesley Pinder · September 11, 2014 at 17:45

Also…i’m fairly certain the two disastrous gender based campaigns mentioned weren’t based on any proper audience insight!!

    Rory Green · September 11, 2014 at 17:45

    Yes – that is probably true!

    Sheena Greer · September 11, 2014 at 17:49

    Take the “Lego Female Scientists” line – Lego happily took praise for setting it all up, and quietly slunk away when they canceled this line of toys shortly after releasing it.

Beth Ann Locke · September 11, 2014 at 19:08

Rory and Tom,

Interesting topic! I think you can segment people in so many ways – a woman from NYC and a woman from Vancouver will actually have very different approaches to giving based on their culture, and perhaps some shared approaches based on gender… in my experience, there is a lot at play, age and cultural upbringing being two of the important ones.

Like Amanda, I’m more focused on major and principal giving so perhaps in this area we must (should at least) be looking at the individual. One think I find myself constantly fighting against is the idea that the dominant culture (white male) are the ones we should always be directing cultivation towards. Many HNW donors are older, in traditional relationships. But you need to get beyond that to find out what really makes the heart sing.

To answer the questions posed, I do think men and women behave differently – but is that is the biggest predictor of their motivations? I don’t think so.

Perhaps this topic is geared toward annual giving officers. Whether appeals (email, dm, etc.) make a big difference, again, I think that the content of the letter (is it about the donor?) will make a bigger difference. This also makes the assumption that only one person reads and acts on the letter/ communication. I find that in homes with shared incomes/ expenses, larger gifts are discussed, so such a gift and the decision to give it may not be explored by only one type gender.

I’m interested to hear of people who have some measurable results. As for me, I have two prospecting events next week where we have only invited women! This is because we believe some of the issues that our nonprofit works on relate to things that women – generally – hold dear to their hearts: health and education and peace.

Preeti Gill (@Preeti_Things) · September 11, 2014 at 19:56

A fascinating topic and measured approach to pursuing women donors. Well done, Rory and Tom!

This has been top of mind for this Prospect Researcher since joining Vancouver Foundation and being asked to find and qualify prospective female donors for our Giving Well circle (women grant makers collaboratively supporting women and children’s issues and causes in our city). It’s become close to my own heart. And it’s been a source of frustration finding and understanding “these illustrious female donors.”

Prospect Research resources are frighteningly male-oriented. We focus on property assessments, giving histories (to charities who produce annual reports) and corporate disclosure. How many women executives currently serve on public company boards?

I’m not advocating for affirmative action or female-specific DM appeals, I just wish I had more sources to draw from to better understand women donors, their backgrounds and motivations for giving, knowing that we’re all individual to our core.

It’s a topic Jen Filla and I are exploring from a Prospect Research perspective and we hope to draw from studies you note in your article to draw attention to this missing piece. It means analyzing women donors from a broad, generalist perspective, but it’s something, you know?

Tom Ahern · September 11, 2014 at 20:05

Rory’s been carrying all the weight, responding to this amazing spectrum of thoughtful responses. But I want to thank you each of you — Michal, Josh, Maeve, Simon, Sonya, Amanda, Andrew, Mary, Ivo, Sheena, Lesley, Beth [so far] & Stephen Pidgeon (if he ever answers the banging on his digital door), the New Zealanders just rolling out of bed and the Aussies still to come — for everything you’ve given to this discussion. 101fundraising is a exciting way to get somewhere fast on a confusing, untidy topic.

Rory Green · September 11, 2014 at 20:25

Also interesting food for thought from the TD report:
“women who are active donors are often motivated by their upbringing, their faith, a life-altering event such as the death of a husband or another family member, or coming face-to-face with a specific need that could be met through the act of giving;” and “Female philanthropists tend to give more often to local charities that support health and social causes” – has any one noticed other patterns of giving between men and women? And does this Canadian observation hold true in other countries?

Siobhan · September 11, 2014 at 20:27

What a hot tamale Rory! I know you’re thinking about direct mail and online approaches, but this gets me pondering one-to-one major gift asks.

There’s no formula to it, but I KNOW that I ask differently with men than with women. And I vary my approach for age as well now that I think about it. I joke around more with men and speak in a “straight-shooting” kind of way. With women, I’m a bit more mellow and thoughtful. And I’m chattier with elderly donors of either gender.

I wonder what other major gifters would say to this? : )

Laura @alwayscolour · September 11, 2014 at 22:58

This is fascinating!

I think it depends on lots of factors, but I believe gender has a role to play, yet isn’t the most important factor.

I have tried and tested lots of approaches and I find that the ones that work best are when you tailor it to different age & interest groups.

My main priority is aligning donors needs & showing through an ask or direct mail how donating reaches out to that and provides a solution…

I do think it’s AWESOME to do appeals that are two faced though, an example would be Mothers / Father’s Day….

If you’re working for a Children’s hospital it’d be awesome to reach out to Mothers on that day, but also both men and women and and talk about their mother looking after them when they were sick as a kid , as a small part of a campaign.

I think the main thing for me in a smaller charity is not thinking about my donors as groups in pigeon holes- such as gender etc, but to get to know the important things they want as segmented groups.

The key to this is developing an awesome evaluation /survey strategy to become completely donor lead and donor focused in my opinion….

The messaging/ asks / direct mail will fit the donors needs, rather than the donor fitting the appeals needs because they are male or female.

Just quick points from me :)

    Tom Ahern · September 11, 2014 at 23:45

    That sounds exactly right to my ears.

      Laura Croudace @alwayscolour · September 12, 2014 at 09:19

      Thank you Tom! That’s lovely feedback! :)

Sarah (@altruicadvisors) · September 11, 2014 at 23:05

Way to bring up some controversial ideas! On one hand, targeted fundraising is key for an effective campaign; on the other hand, women aren’t a just special interest group – they’re 50% of the population. “Women” may be too broad of a target to really be effective. After all, a 21-year-old college student in New York might have less in common with a 48-year-old mother in Kansas than she does with her male classmates. It’s not wrong to take gender into account, but it shouldn’t be the only thing you take into account.

    Tom Ahern · September 11, 2014 at 23:46

    Of course that’s all true! I’m beginning to wonder why I even asked this question. I had trees. Now I can see forest. Thank you, Sarah.

wendy mansell · September 12, 2014 at 04:55

For me, the biggest differences have come when dealing with women in positions where they are managing the wealth of others — either as a corporate partner or a foundation trustee. I have had to work harder, provide more substantiation of impact, and have more dialogue where women are in charge of the funds. But this has also led to deeper and more sustainable commitment. With male donors, I have had to focus on sharpening my pitch and accepting that only a small fraction of the information that I have at the ready will ever be seen. Direct mail and mass appeals have never really been an area of focus for me, but in my experience adapting your approach to suit the style, expectations and needs of a donor has never been wasted.

Margaux Smith · September 12, 2014 at 07:39

Hi Tom and Rory :)

Great topic. As my experience is almost entirely in direct mail (with a bit of online) I can give a bit of that perspective.

Although I’ve seen presentations and read a bit about gender segmenting before, it’s not been something I’ve tried in my career yet. In my current role, I’m working with charities whose mail files are probably not large enough to justify the extra cost that this type of testing would require without the likelihood of getting statistically valid results.

We do, however, monitor our cold list rentals by gender and found in our latest pack that although the men gave a higher average gift, which is what we always tend to see, their response rate was equal to that of women, when it’s often much lower. We mailed less men than women in the first mailing and now that we’re rolling out the cold pack we’ll be increasing the percentage of men we mail. It’ll be interesting to see if this pack tends to appeal equally to both genders in the long run.

I think the success in direct mail depends upon so many variables that likely trump gender, and if you focus on getting these basics right, perhaps gender is simply a ‘nice to have’? Perfect the rest first. Namely:

– mail those who are proven to be mail responsive (and even better, mail AND charity responsive)
– personalise with name and past giving behaviour
– make numerous clear, specific asks that are tailored to the individual’s past giving behaviour
– tell the emotional story of one person/animal that shows the need
– make sure your pack is designed for skimmers and scanners

If you’re doing all of the above, I think you’ll be appealing to those from all genders who have the propensity to give.

But if you’re doing all these perfectly and you want to continue to push to improve, gender specific communications would certainly be an interesting thing to test. Just make sure you share your learnings so that those of us with smaller files and smaller budgets can reap the rewards too ;)

Charlie Hulme · September 12, 2014 at 11:05

At last years IFC, Dan Hill of Sensory Logic ( the face readers) said in a passing comment -‘men respond best to anger, women to sadness’. Seemed generic and intuitive. Never got the chance to test as no client wanted to try. Any takers?

    Rory Green · September 12, 2014 at 16:50

    That’s interesting, as most DM experts say “sad” is the most profitable emotion in fundraising, perhaps that is because this has been tested with female donors.

Fraser Green · September 12, 2014 at 13:16

Direct marketing literature says that men prefer shorter, more factual appeals. Left brain stuff – and intellectual rather than emotional. The same literature says that women are more relational. They prefer storytelling, and like to empathize and identify with the characters in the story. We’ve tested this some, and it appears that the wisdom is true – although the improvements in revenue from the split approach doesn’t always justify the additional cost. In my experience, the jury’s still out on this one.

    Margaux Smith · September 13, 2014 at 01:37

    So interesting that this sounds right in line with the tests Stephen is discussing above. I love the sound of these results and am going to think long and hard about the cost/benefits of testing something in our cold packs (only things that have enough volume to test properly). My biggest worry would be that if we create a male-specific cold pack and generate far more male leads, we’ll then have to start creating a male variation of every warm pack, otherwise we’re communicating to them in a massively different way (our warm packs are all 4pp emotional letters). Could be costly in the long term as well – not just for the initial mailing…

      Rory Green · September 13, 2014 at 16:07

      1. Can’t wait for the day when I can hire you to write my org’s DM.
      2. Ultimately, yes the question should be – does gender segmentation raise enough money to justify the extra costs of creating two separate packs

        Tom Ahern · September 13, 2014 at 22:01

        I wonder, too, if the phenomenon makes as much difference post-acquisition? Stephen’s letter, after all, was a cold recruitment pack, operating in the harshest of all environments. Once a donor’s on-board, and attention shifts to retention and good customer (i.e., donor) service, maybe the message can shift to something gender-neutral, so two packs would not be needed.

          Stephen Pidgeon · September 15, 2014 at 20:44

          Tom I think that’s right, cold recruitment is such a tough ask, you have to minimise any excuse to stop reading. And men seem to stop quicker if it doesn’t get to the point. Women seem to enjoy the build up of ‘colour’.

Nick Locke · September 12, 2014 at 20:06

Thanks Mr. Tom and Ms. Rory

(there an example of where we already use genderism in DM!)

An interesting question for sure.

My thoughts on this are that tailoring your appeal more to gender may impact results, but will not override the current key success factors in DM, which Margaux has captured really well in her response above.

I also believe that men and women give for the same reasons, that often the genderism is already captured in the cause itself and, in the end, messaging that creates the incentive to give speaks to both genders associated with that cause.

There may be factors that are unique to each gender but I do not think they are the basics of DM and I think we need a lot more research and testing before we let them add value (not take over) what we already know works.

Nick Locke (Mr.)

Charlie Hulme · September 12, 2014 at 21:09

Dan Hill of Sensory Logic/Emotionics (face reading guy) once said in general men respond best to anger, women to sadness. Sounds intuitive ( if a liitle broad/generic). Could never find anyone to test it, i.e prime with lines like ‘doesn’t it make you angry/sad?’ Any takers (I’ll help with copy if you like…)

Rhonda Batchelor · September 13, 2014 at 17:01

I think that when focus is on social difference whether it be sex identity, race or belief, we tend to loose sight of the actual reason we are fundraising. If funding for kids, a gender or cultural specific, the issue could arise in the minds of potential donors as “Does this funding include me?” and if it doesn’t speak to the person’s personal environment it lays to waste. If a person is passionate about a specific cause because it touched their lives in a personal way then they give. On the other hand if it is solely the gift giving and margins of gifting I tend to think men are a harder sell and it has to appeal to “what am I getting out of this”, however women have to see what it contributes to their community. For instance I did fundraising for Breast cancer awareness and mostly women contributed, and because it was “breast cancer” I had to show education materials that were inclusive of men who had developed breast cancer and that it wasn’t a gender specific disease but affected women in the majority of cases, however with the research and development men benefited alongside the women. Men who were touched by breast cancer (mother, wife, sister, girlfriend) were passionate about giving, but weren’t sure how much they should give. Honestly I believe it comes down to education, not actually gender. I think women fundraisers do a bit better raising funds within their gender, and may also be a reason for differences in numbers.

Simon Burne · September 15, 2014 at 15:36

I cut my fundraising teeth at a small development charity called Practical Action. We used the usual approach with the usual lists but ended up with a database nearly 75% male. We found that men really liked the practical solution-based approach to problems – and really liked the simple appropriate technologies we developed. So i have to say i believe that there are appeals that work more with one gender than the other, but as others have said, it’s all about testing, testing, testing; segmenting, segmenting, segmenting – if it works, do it. If not, don’t.

Stephen Pidgeon · September 15, 2014 at 20:50

A last thought on a super debate, thanks Rory. 20 years ago a paper came out of I think, Bristol University showing that people born in the primordial birth position (yea, it was an academic paper, so ‘first born’ to you and me!) needed a lot more information on a product to persuade them to purchase. Fascinating…and I immediately speculated that it might be because, of their siblings, they always had to do things first. And then I thought ‘what a bl**** waste of time because you can’t buy mailing lists based on consumers birth position!
But we DO know people’s gender!

    Carsten Direske · September 16, 2014 at 01:14

    Yes, indeed a discussion worthwhile crosschecking regularly, thank you all for your contributions to the debate: Here’s mine with some findings from 300,000 single donations to the German campaigning platform Campact.de, covering different causes and campaigns, being supported by nearly evenly distributed proportions of men and women (52 : 48 %) on the emailing list in an environment of growing gender awareness and somehow “progressive” values (e.g. we often use mixed photos of people – sex, age, attitude, etc “like you and me” as testimonials http://www.flickr.com/photos/campact/sets/):
    While some campaigns attracted relatively more males donating, others were female dominated. But this happens less frequently and male domination often is bigger in terms of the ratio (bias: women donating on the banking accounts of their partners). All in all, adjusted to the rate on the list, women give a little bit more frequently but with lower average donation amount. This gender gap ranges from 4 to well above 22 % and on average was 19,6 % over the last years. Current gender pay gap in Germany is reported to be 22 % http://www.equalpayday.de/statistik/
    A while ago, we decided not to do segmented mailings on gender – equal rights may also mean to find our one way to address all people gently and properly at the same time.

Ken Wyman · September 21, 2014 at 17:40

Stephen Pigeon’s research is pretty strong on this. As I recall at one point he analyzed people’s feedback on a package, and got a confusingly contradictory array of comments, such as “too long / too short” “too mushy-get to the point / love a good story”. Apparently when gender was overlaid the comments mostly (but not entirely) fell into clear camps: men wanted short, factual letters, and women liked longer emotional stores. Stephen’s results, reported here, play that out in mailings. Preparing two variations of the same letter should not be a big expense. Let’s test it again.

For major gifts, one factor may be that most major gift donors are older, and many have more conservative beliefs. Same gender conversations (male donor = male fundraiser; female – female) may avoid cultural risks and confusion.

But things do change. At one point it seemed that major gift fundraisers, and planned giving people in particular, had to have a little grey in their hair to speak to older donors as peers with shared life experiences. Now many young (women) are hired to do this work, apparently with success. It would be interesting to survey planned giving prospects on their thoughts.

Andrew Olsen · September 29, 2014 at 13:02

Hi Rory!

Great topic & convo, as usual. A few quick points…

We recently looked at trend data for a mid-sized social service org client and found that for giving via direct response (mail, email, search), men had ~50% higher lifetime value than did the women on this file.

We almost always see this hold true in political and advocacy giving as well.

However, to one of your previous comments, when I worked in pediatric healthcare, we saw (again, sample of one) that women tended to have LTV of 30% – 40% higher than men.

    Rory · September 29, 2014 at 17:17

    Thanks for this Andrew! I’d be curious to see how this plays out across other charities – religious, animal welfare, education etc,

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