Wow Factor! Applying the power of magic moments for increased income


On my way home the other day I stopped at the Pret A Manger at St Pancras station for some tea and a bit of cake before heading for my train. As I took out my wallet, the server smiled and said ‘no charge, this is all on the house.’

You can imagine how after a long, tiring day, and this surprise cheered up my evening considerably.

Interestingly, this was not the first time someone at Pret has given me a free cup of tea. In fact it has happened before. Has it ever happened to you?

It turns out that the catalyst for my moment of happiness was only half spontaneous. In the excellent, Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath, they explain that Pret a Manger employees are in fact allowed to give away a certain number of hot drinks / food items every week. The Chief Executive of Pret, Clive Schlee estimates that 28% of people have had something free.

Apparently Pret did consider making free stuff available through some kind of loyalty card scheme, but instead chose to make it more spontaneous. In so doing, they have ‘restored the surprise and humanity to perks that, in a loyalty card scheme, would have been systematized.’

More wow moments increases loyalty and therefore income…

There are two smart business reasons for Pret to be doing this. Not only does it predictably ensure that in any given week, a significant number of customers are being given a pleasant surprise, creating both increased loyalty and positive word of mouth – the first time it happened I was so chuffed that I told several friends and I shared it on twitter. But also, importantly, empowering staff to use their discretion and deliberately ‘break the script’ has a positive effect on staff morale. Seeing my face go from tired to confused to happily surprised when given free cake was probably quite fun for the person who served me.

The Power of Moments, is a fascinating read full of insights that can be applied to many areas of life, including fundraising. In the book, the authors show that we tend not to remember all elements of an experience equally. Instead, our lasting impression of something tends to be disproportionately affected by the best, worst and last moments of that experience, and we largely forget the rest.

Though this strikes a chord with most people’s experience of life, the book points out that too often we fail to deliberately create more positive, ‘wow’ moments, for ourselves and our supporters / customers. There are many reasons for this, but one is that we’re usually so busy dealing with problems, difficult employees, challenging donors etc, (ie we’re in ‘defense mode’) that we rarely have time to proactively create the wow moments.

Pret’s decision bucks this trend, as does South West Airlines policy of encouraging its flight attendants to bring fun to the most boring parts of the job, such as flight safety announcements. By bringing them to life with jokes, not only do people pay more attention to the safety message because the script has been broken, but they also create positively memorable moments. Because airlines tend to collect lots of data about their customers, Southwest Airlines have even demonstrated a clear benefit to the bottom line in encouraging funny safety announcements. The Heath Brothers report that ‘when loyal customers were on a flight with a funny safety announcement, they on average flew one half-flight more over the next year than did similar customers who hadn’t heard one.’ The Heath Brothers show that there is a huge positive effect on results if you positively break the script more often.

How can this concept help fundraisers?

In one of my recent Breakfast Clubs for Fundraising Leaders, individual giving expert Craig Linton (aka The Fundraising Detective) gave a fascinating talk about how to deliberately create more positive memorable moments for your donors. Here are just a few of the tactics he has found to work. From the list, my advice is not to look out for ideas that you’ve never had before, but instead to ask yourself how you could deliberately make these activities more likely to happen. The genius of Pret’s strategy is not the giving away of free stuff, it’s that they deliberately help this spontaneity happen more frequently.

  1. Send birthday and gift anniversary cards. Surprise donors by wishing them a happy birthday or sending them something to celebrate an anniversary of their giving.
  2. Thank sponsors of Marathon runners on race day. Charities spend a lot of time stewarding people who take part in events, but how much time do you spend on the people who generously sponsor those runners and cyclists? For instance, the day of the event is a great opportunity to send them a thank you message and encouraging them to send a message to cheer on their friend who is doing the race.
  3. Thank you films that WOW them. Certain charities, including Charity Water and Send a Cow – their thank you days involve the whole organisation – have worked really hard at creating fantastic films to thank donors. Here are 5 Brilliant Thank You Films curated by the excellent Steven George.
  4. ‘I saw this and thought of you’. Send a press clipping on a subject that you know the supporter is interested in or have given to before.
  5. Your thank you page. When someone makes an online donation, what page do you send them to on your website? Is it personalised? Does it tell a story? Could you use video to make people feel great about having donated? Check out some great examples here.
  6. Make it stand out. Adding a Post-it note, handwritten message or even using a different colour pen, all get your message noticed and make it feel more personal. (In a recent course for the Bright Spot Members Club, Charly White demonstrated the marked uplift in giving from mid-level donors when they receive more personalised, high-touch communication).

Do you lead a fundraising team or department?

The next Breakfast Club for Fundraising Leaders, takes place on 4th December 2017. The previous 12 Breakfast Clubs have SOLD OUT, so if you’re interested, take action today.