Numbers make the charity world go round.

Whether it’s reaching your fundraising targets, recruiting volunteers or rolling out your services to more people, specific figures will never be far from your mind.

There’s a lot of psychology behind using numbers and how others perceive them. In this article, I’m exploring some of these to give you four practical psychology tips you can use in your charity. 

  • Take a look at left-digit bias

The psychological principle of left-digit bias is all around us.

For example, it’s why things are £19.99 in the shops or online rather than £20.

Because we read numbers left to right, our brains pay more attention to the first number. In the case above, 1 is lower than 2, so it’s more appealing. This isn’t anything new, but I’m sharing it because I see many charities ignoring this when asking for donations.

Yes, every penny counts. However, if asking people to donate £4.99, £19.99 or £29.99 rather than £5, £20, or £30 encourages more of them to give, the cause will actually make more money, not less.

Have you ever experimented with your suggested donation amounts? 

  • Specificity can deliver success

Another way I’ve seen left-digit bias used is combined with asking for specific amounts, e.g. “Donate £18.74 today to buy vital medical supplies for Matthew.” This is extra powerful because of the specificity. It certainly has more of an impact than something generic like “Donate £20 today to help sick children.”

Tied in with this is the practice of using digits rather than spelling out the numbers. For example, which of these headlines catches your attention more?

  • Forty-three is the average age of death for homeless women in the UK
  • 43 is the average age of death for homeless women in the UK

Could you combine these principles in your next fundraising campaign? 

  • Odd or even? 

Knowing your audience is vital when it comes to using specific numbers. One study found people tend to perceive odd numbers as masculine and even numbers to be feminine

In addition, odd numbers were associated with what many consider male traits such as “autonomous”. Conversely, even numbers correlated with stereotypical female characteristics such as being “nurturing”. 

Both genders thought of even numbers as being “nicer”, with this being more prominent among women. 

Let’s say you’re a charity that helps men over 50 talk about their mental health. Given the research findings above, you might want to use even numbers in your article headings and when asking for donations.

What do you think about running an A/B test to see if this improves your results? 

  • Total recall 

While most charities use phone and text-to-donate numbers in their fundraising campaigns, those numbers aren’t always memorable. You may only have a matter of seconds to grab someone’s attention online or offline. 

If you’re using unique numbers to track specific campaigns, have you ever thought about how easy they are to recall?  

For example, which of these is easier to remember? 

  • Text “HELP” to 73156 to give £5 today
  • Text “HELP” to 77221 to give £5 today

A research paper from the University of Amsterdam found that after single numbers and teen numbers (10-19), doubled numbers were the next most memorable, followed by those that factor and appear in multiplication tables, e.g. 27, 36 and 60.

While securing a number that meets these criteria might be harder or more expensive, it could more than pay for itself via increased donations.

How easy are your phone and text numbers to remember? 

It’s worth experimenting with these tips on social media, for example, to see if they work for your charity. With the cost-of-living crisis continuing to hit hard, exploring ways to make small gains could have a significant impact. 

If you liked this article, read 3 reasons to rethink your fundraising calls to action.