Do you talk about patients or research in your appeals?

‘People give to people’ is the old adage, and successful fundraising letters and emails are illustrated with photos and stories about hopeful, hungry children and homeless people. But does it work in healthcare fundraising?

We have found, time and again, that stories about research produce better fundraising results than those about patients. Imagine, a fact-filled, scientific explanation of some new technology producing more, and bigger, gifts, than a heart-rending or -warming story of a patient helped by the same technology! Exactly.

It’s not  just Amergent’s results, either. Recently John Graves and Dennis Lonergan of Eidolon Communications presented some test results at DMAW’s DM201 workshop. Here are two letters they tested side by side for a hospital:

dm201-creative-testing-lonergan-graves1            dm201-creative-testing-lonergan-graves2

The letter on the left is a story about how a new technology saved a patient’s life. The letter on the right is all about the technology itself. The tech-heavy letter, according to Graves and Lonergan, produced 43% more gifts, and a 3x lift in average gift (from $27 to $83)!

Why? That’s a trick question. I’m reminded by my very first bosses in direct marketing that “why” doesn’t matter. It’s tempting to speculate, however, and my speculation is that every family has a patient story, but technology reflects the hope of the future.

So, people may indeed give to people, but the people to whom people are giving might be research scientists and laboratory technicians.

What research stories do you tell? Do you have testing data that contradict ours?