The Steinhoff Saga Management review - University of Stellenbosch Business School

July – December 2018

Emotional narrative video advertisements as donation request tools: an experiment assessing donation outcome

video advertisements
  • Debbey Olivier
  • OCT 2018
  • Tags Insights, MBA Research, Motivation, Fundraising, Donations, NPOs, Marketing
19 minutes to read

SHARE

Debbey Olivier, MBA student, USB

When fundraising and sustainability go hand in hand

Non-profit organisations (NPOs) are struggling to remain sustainable in a world in which the number of NPOs are increasing and funds are decreasing. Firstly, soliciting donations, which offer no tangible benefits to the donor, can be challenging. Secondly, NPOs do not necessarily have large fundraising budgets. Also, the fundraising environment is competitive.

Therefore, to a large extent, the sustainability of NPOs depend on their ability raise enough money. But how can they can leverage their fundraising efforts more effectively?

In an ideal world, there would be no need for NPOs. However, governments and private sector organisations do not render all the services that communities need. NPOs bridge this delivery gap, providing beneficial services to the communities in which they operate. In addition, NPOs create social value by serving as social safety nets, improving the quality of life of their beneficiaries, while also contributing to the economy. So their continued existence is crucial.

With the shift towards the triple bottom line, companies are seeking ways in which to balance their profit aims and their objectives of being regarded as reputable and responsible in their business operations. Strategic NPO-corporate partnerships are mutually beneficial. The company is perceived as a good corporate citizen while the NPO obtains resources to remain sustainable.

When a donation is made to an NPO, the donor company gives the funding without expecting an economic or commercial benefit in return. As there is no marketing or exposure benefit attached to a donation, an NPO makes an appeal to the generosity of the company when requesting a donation. NPOs could, therefore, find it challenging to persuade companies to invest in their cause.

A significant amount of research has been conducted on donations in the non-profit environment. However, little research has been done on the effectiveness of these donation requests. The aim of this study was therefore to determine whether an NPO could use a narrative video advertisement as a donation request tool to solicit larger donations than would be the case when using written donation proposals.

… the sustainability of NPOs depend on their ability raise enough money. But how can they can leverage their fundraising efforts more effectively?

Corporate giving

In the past, it was a popular notion that the sole purpose of a company was to make money for its shareholders. Now, according to stakeholder theory, anyone who has a stake in a firm has the right to be treated as a participating and determining factor in the decision-making of such a business. The stakeholder theory has therefore broken down the barriers between business and the public, alluding to the environment in which the company operates as not merely economic, but also social and environmental. In fact, it has been said that companies will not be able to do business when the societies in which they operate are dysfunctional.

Companies are increasingly striving to do well and good, which means they are juxtaposing their profit-making activities with philanthropic initiatives. There are two reasons for the shift in the business goals of companies from being purely economical to benefitting communities. Firstly, companies are focusing on their social involvement to drive their business success. Secondly, businesses have become more attuned to the funding needs of NPOs. Corporate social investing, previously known as ‘corporate philanthropy’, has become a business concept. Corporate social investing is a strategic business focus where companies forge relationships with NPOs to generate the maximum business value – not only in financial terms but also in terms of their own brand position and corporate image.

Companies making corporate social investments are motivated by legitimacy, sustainability, and profitability, and the belief that they have a moral responsibility towards society. When a company makes a positive contribution to society, it could be regarded by society as a long-term investment in uplifting the community, which also enhances the image and reputation of the company.

Companies are not donating to NPOs merely for the sake of feeling good about their philanthropic acts. However, companies do not have the means to deliver all the services required to ensure the sustainability and improved quality of life of the communities in which they operate. This is why companies form strategic partnerships with reputable NPOs. The focus of the NPO usually ties in with the company’s objectives and values.

The benefit obtained by companies when donating to NPOs lies in the favourable publicity, enhanced public goodwill and increased public awareness of its brand. Any financial advantage to the donor company may be as a result of the indirect effect of the relationship. Indirect positive effects in this context include enhanced reputation and brand image, and employee motivation and retention.

NPOs can no longer afford to be without a marketing strategy, as they will soon be overtaken by their competitors or fail to be sustainable due to a lack of funding.

Marketing communication in the NPO environment

NPOs often do not have funding for extensive fundraising. That is why NPOs have to optimise the effect of their fundraising activities. It is also essential that NPOs understand the business objectives of their donors to increase the effectiveness of their fundraising programmes.

In the consumer market, marketing is aimed at persuading the consumer to spend in order to fulfil a consumer need. This is in contrast to the NPO environment, where the aim is to convince the donor to give funds towards fulfilling the needs of others, namely the beneficiaries of the NPO. This difference has created a disjoint between traditional marketing and NPO marketing. As a result, many NPOs have steered clear of marketing their ventures actively. However, NPOs can no longer afford to be without a marketing strategy, as they will soon be overtaken by their competitors or fail to be sustainable due to a lack of funding.

An effective fundraising communication campaign can make potential donors aware of how association with an NPO would meet their business objectives. In essence, the campaign could influence the donor’s decision to donate to the NPO.

Narratives in particular can awaken positive emotions and influence consumers to go over to purchasing action

Finding the right way to communicate a message

NPOs have to make strategic decisions regarding the fundraising communications mix as well as the promotional mix to ensure maximum donation awards. Promotion includes those elements in the marketing mix which can persuade the targeted donor audience through communication. But donors differ – what stimulates one to take action may leave another unaffected. Promotion, specifically a fundraising advertisement, could serve as a cost-effective way to convey a message to the target donor audience.

Various researchers have shown that, in the consumer market, video as an advertising medium is preferred to written content. For example, visual images makes the recalling of the message easier. Also, audio-visual advertisements increase the purchase intention to a larger extent than purely visual advertisements.

An advertising message can be built upon a rational or emotional theme, which should effectively communicate the credibility, desirability and exclusivity of the service or product. Storytelling in advertisements has become a powerful tool to deliver information, create meaning, share experiences and awaken emotions. Narratives in particular can awaken positive emotions and influence consumers to go over to purchasing action. It has therefore been suggested that NPOs could use the stories of their beneficiaries in printed format as a means to influence the behaviour and intentions of donors.

An advertising appeal addresses the reason why a person would purchase a specific product, and normally speaks to the emotions of the person at whom the advertisement is directed. Marketers could benefit from incorporating both rational and emotional appeals in advertisements. An advertisement which includes an emotional message captures the consumer’s attention, boosts brand attractiveness, and is more likely to be remembered. The measurement of the effectiveness of an advertisement is more complex when an emotional appeal is included, as emotions have a significant influence on the responses of individuals. It has also been shown that when advertising consumer market services, rational appeals are preferred to emotional appeals.

The objective of marketing communication is to change the mental state of the targeted audience and to move a consumer into a state where action is taken regarding the product or service offering. Micro-models of marketing communications and response hierarchy models assume that consumers pass through the cognitive, affective and behavioural stages within the purchase decision-making processes.

The stages of the donation decision-making process are illustrated in Figure 1. Awareness and knowledge of the product or service is a fundamental objective of advertising. An NPO could use an advertisement to expose a potential donor to the operations of the NPO, thereby creating an awareness of the NPO. Exposure can get donors to pay attention to the information but it does not guarantee donation outcomes.

The affective component relates to the feelings or emotional reactions to a product or service, and consists of two communication elements: attitude and intention. Researchers have shown that positive reactions towards an NPO formed during the cognitive stage could result in positive attitudes towards the NPO and could increase the donor’s intentions to donate to the NPO. When the potential donor displays an emotional reaction to the advertising message, it could indicate a change in the attitude of the donor towards the NPO. This shift in attitude could manifest in the intention to donate.

The link between attitude towards a brand and the intention to purchase has been confirmed by various researchers. Attitude is a driver of behaviour. When donors appraise the funding request of an NPO and show a certain attitude towards the NPO as a result of external stimuli such as an advertisement, this could create a donation willingness.

This leads to the question: How can NPOs use fundraising advertisements more successfully to persuade donors to donate funds?

An advertisement which includes an emotional message captures the consumer’s attention, boosts brand attractiveness, and is more likely to be remembered.

How was this research conducted?

This study compared the donation request methods of an NPO. The first funding request method was a written funding proposal, and the second, an audio-visual narrative funding advertisement.

The impact of the two methods was assessed by comparing the differences observed in the donation amount, the intention to donate, and the attitude towards the NPO. Causal research, which is about observing the effect of the dependent variable when altering the independent variable(s), was appropriate for this study as inferences can be made from the cause-and-effect relationship.

To measure the attitude towards and the intention to donate to the NPO, quantitative raw data was collected through a quasi-experimental study by means of a one-group pre-test-post-test survey instrument – a method often employed in testing marketing phenomena.

A professionally produced narrative video, depicting the life-changing experience of a young man through the intervention of an NPO, was used as an audio-visual donation proposal. In the video, the young man personally delivers testimony of his story and the effect the NPO had on his life.

The video consists of four parts. The first part focuses on the improvement in his secondary school performance during his interaction with the NPO. The second section focuses on the township area and the shack he shares with his mother and siblings. During the third section, the young man narrates his experiences as a medical student, while also expressing his goals for himself and his family. The fundraising advertisement concludes with a call for donations to the NPO. Operational and statistical information (identical to that in the written proposal) was included in the video clip.

To address the objective of the study, the following hypotheses (H) were postulated:

H1:             Attitude towards the NPO is less favourable before viewing the narrative video than the attitude towards the NPO after viewing the narrative video.

H2:             The level of intention to donate to the NPO is less before viewing the narrative video than the intention to donate after viewing the narrative video.

H3:             Amount willing to donate to the NPO is less before viewing the narrative video than the amount willing to donate after viewing the narrative video.

The respondents were also given a written funding proposal, which provided information on the NPO and concluded with a request for a donation. Subsequently, the subjects were exposed to a pre-test, which observed their attitude towards the organisation and their intention to donate to the cause. The subjects were requested to indicate an amount from a hypothetical budget, which they were willing to donate. The respondents were then required to view the video advertisement. The post-test observed their attitude towards the organisation as well as their intention to donate to the cause. After viewing the video, the respondents were requested to indicate an amount, from a hypothetical budget, which they were willing to donate. Questions regarding the emotions experienced by the respondents while viewing the video were included. Demographic data was also requested.

The target population consisted of managers who held corporate social investment, human resource management or donation disbursement positions in their companies. In total, 30 managers participated.

The link between attitude towards a brand and the intention to purchase has been confirmed by various researchers.

What did the study find?

Existing literature suggests that the preference for and effect of emotional or rational appeals in product and services marketing are not conclusive. Rational appeals are preferred to emotional appeals in services marketing. However, most NPOs have wonderful stories to tell about the work they do, suggesting that NPOs could include narratives in their funding requests.

The funding advertisement used in this study combined an audio-visual medium with a narrative message. The advertisement incorporated a strong emotional appeal, depicting the service of the NPO and its influence on the beneficiary. The video included important rational information on the NPO.

The hypothesis testing measured the respondents’ donation intention, their intended donation amount, and attitude towards the NPO after reading the written funding proposal and again after viewing the narrative video advertisement.

This study provided evidence that replacing a written funding proposal with an audio-visual narrative donation request, which incorporated a strong emotional appeal, could lead to a favourable intention to donate to an NPO.

The findings showed that the potential donors could be willing to donate larger amounts to the NPO when funding requests are made in the form of an emotional narrative video. These findings support existing literature that an audio-visual advertisement can successfully increase intention to donate.

In conclusion, this study provided evidence that replacing a written funding proposal with an audio-visual narrative donation request could lead to a more favourable donation outcome. A video donation request can therefore be used as a fundraising tool to help ensure the sustainability of NPOs.

… potential donors could be willing to donate larger amounts to the NPO when funding requests are made in the form of an emotional narrative video

What are the practical implications of this study?

NPOs using the most effective donation request tools will optimise donations to ensure their sustainability. This is what they can do:

  • Record the stories: NPOs should capture, record and document their success stories, as these stories could be used successfully in fundraising activities.
  • Distribute the stories widely: NPOs can increase their traction by distributing the captured video content on a variety of digital platforms at no cost to the NPO, thereby increasing awareness for their cause.
  • Ensure the right fundraising strategy: NPOs can replace written proposals with audio-visual narrative advertisements as a means to raise more funds for their cause. To ensure maximum donor persuasion and action, NPOs could combine rational information required for donation decisions with emotional content, depicting the benefit of the services of the NPO for the beneficiaries of the funding.

Leave Your Comment

Featured articles

Dec 11

17 minutes to read

The relationship between emplo...
Dec 11

17 minutes to read

The potential role of coaching...

Join the USB community

Receive updates on the latest news, events, business knowledge and blogs at USB.

SUBSCRIBE NOW