• David Oaks

What Can Canned Laughter Teach Us About Fundraising?

I remember years ago watching in awe when Billy Graham would give his invitation at the end of his message. I never ceased to be amazed when he invited people to step out of their seats to come forward that thousands would immediately respond.


I also remember when I first began to understand some of the psychology of how that happened. Now, PLEASE, understand me; I believe that a divine tug to the human heart accompanied Billy Graham’s invitations. But, knowingly or unknowingly to the Graham team, there was some psychology involved.


The psychology I am talking about is well demonstrated in the use of canned laughter in comedy shows. It has come to be known as social proof.


Social proof is a term coined by Robert Cialdini that posits that we view a behavior as correct in a given situation to the degree we see others performing it. In simpler terms, we tend to do what other people do.

Social proof happens when we give others the gift of going second.

Unknown to me, at the time, Billy Graham would have an army of as much as six thousand altar workers seated all over the stadium venue, trained, at the invitation, to make their way to the front immediately. (Influence, p117)


When thousands of trained altar workers jumped up to go forward at the end of his sermon, Billy Graham gave people the gift of going second. Thousands followed the lead of the trained workers.

Many years ago, television executives used the same technique with canned laughter. They knew that when others laugh first, we tend to find something more humorous and laugh also. Want to test out what they knew? Watch Lucille Ball in her famous Chocolate Factory sketch with sound and again without sound. (CLICK HERE)

If you listened to the Lucille Ball sketch above, you have to truthfully say that the sketch is barely funny without the live audience laughing track.


Hollywood broadcast executives learned that when you hear someone else laugh, you are more likely to see something as funny and laugh also!

TV EXECUTIVES KNEW THE POWER OF SOCIAL PROOF, GIVING PEOPLE THE OPPORTUNITY TO GO SECOND.

In fundraising, storytelling accomplishes this!


THROUGH STORYTELLING, WE GIVE DONORS THE GIFT OF GOING SECOND.

When I tell stories of donors who give to my charity, I am employing the values of social proof. People get to read or hear stories of other donors giving, AND I AM GIVING THEM THE GIFT OF GOING SECOND.

When I tell stories about other people giving to my mission, people are much more likely to follow suit and give also.


This is why I talk and teach SO much about storytelling for nonprofits. STORIES ARE THE CURRENCY THAT FUNDRAISERS COLLECT TO PAY THEIR DONORS (READ MORE HERE).

The better missionaries and nonprofit leaders are at storytelling, the more money they will raise for their mission. The more stories you tell, the more social proof you are giving to potential donors.

Social proof explains why your coffee barista, or bartender if she/he is wise, will NEVER let you see their tip jar empty (READ MORE HERE)

Social proof is why:

  • TV sitcoms have laugh tracks (they are telling you that you should think this is funny and laugh)

  • We buy on Amazon after we read the product reviews

  • PBS spends so much time on their telethon telling you who just gave

  • And why a telephone bank of very busy people is always in the background

  • A little plug-in comes on when you visit your travel website telling you that ten people just booked that same hotel room

  • Great websites show happy customers consuming their product or service

For missionaries and nonprofits that spend the year telling great stories, THE END OF YEAR IS THE MOST LUCRATIVE TIME OF THE YEAR (READ MORE HERE).

As I write this post, it is May: YOU SHOULD HAVE ALREADY GIVEN YOUR SUPPORTERS TWO NEWSLETTERS FILLED WITH STORIES (READ MORE HERE).


WOULD YOU APPRECIATE SOME HELP FOCUSING MORE ON STORIES? Yes? I have created a FREE DOWNLOAD to help guide you in your storytelling: FIVE STORIES TO TELL TO FULLY FUND YOUR MISSION. It is my gift to you... DOWNLOAD HERE


FREE RESOURCE DOWNLOAD: FIVE STORIES TO TELL TO FULLY FUND YOUR MISSION CLICK HERE



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