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How to Motivate People to Take Action

Motivating people to take action is an important part of advocacy. To further a mission it is important to effectively connect with a diverse audience via intentional strategies. Make it straightforward and simple for people to act on your message and spread the word.

1. Limit Options

  • More choices can make your audience feel less confident in their decision​
  • Less choices lead to more satisfaction and your audience is more likely to take action ​
  • Stick to the rule of three​

Example: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle 

2. Appeal to Identity

  • Speak to people’s wants and needs​
  • People believe they have a responsibility based on their membership in a common group  ​
  • Make it personal!

Example: Don’t Mess with Texas

3. Get Specific

  • People don’t respond well to vague and overarching claims ​
  • Use specific examples to prove general conclusions​
  • Establishes credibility and promotes memorability

Example: “We care about our customers” vs. “Extending opening hours for your convenience”

4. Reward Behavior

  • Find ways to personally thank people that have taken steps toward your goal​
  • Show concrete evidence that what they are doing has an impact ​
  • Rewarding repeated behavior helps to develop habits

Example: Rewards cards at stores 

5. Provide an Action Plan

  • People respond better to clear and detailed language​
  • Tell them exactly what to do and don’t leave out critical details​
  • Show the specific impact of their action (make it quantifiable if possible)

Example: Studies found that more college students donated to a food bank when provided with a map to get there.

6. Appeal to Group Mentality

  • People don’t want to be the first one to act​
  • People are more likely to act if they know people have done it before them​
  • Use testimonials, case studies, numbers

Example: “In a typical month, nearly 2 million volunteers contribute more than eight million hours of their time.” – Bob Aiken, CEO of Feeding America

7. Consider Convenience

  • How far out of their way will people have to go to meet your request? ​
  • Consider ways that you can work to meet people’s needs in a way that is convenient for them. Limit the effort they will have to make to meet your request.

Example: College donation programs placed bins right outside student dorms to collect items. This simple change required minimal effort from the student.

8. Speak to Audience’s Worldview

  1. Absolutistic View​ (Seek order, strong faith in higher power​)
  2. Oppertunistic View (Take advantage of the system, ​ends justify means​)
  3. Humanistic View​ (More to life than money​, importance of treating others well​)
  4. Systemic View​ (intersection between doing good and their own success)

Evaluation Questions

The following questions can be useful in analyzing the impact of your message

  1. Have you provided the appropriate amount of options?
  2. Did you connect your message to your audience’s identity?
  3. Is your message understandable and specific?
  4. Did you provide an incentive for people to take action?
  5. Did you provide a detailed action plan?
  6. Have you shown that they are one of many to follow your message?
  7. Did you consider the needs and limitation of your audience?
  8. Did you consider the values of your audience?
Updated on August 2, 2020

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