Investigators Study the "Activation Point" for Motivating People to Take Action on Issues They Care About

    • April 17, 2008

The Communications Leadership Institute worked to identify ways nonprofit organizations can design campaigns to persuade individuals to take action on issues they care about.

The investigators:

  • Examined case studies of successful persuasion campaigns.
  • Conducted a literature review on the topic of persuasion.
  • Led traditional and nontraditional focus groups among people expressing concern for issues such as global warming, sex education and childhood obesity.

They summarized their findings in a report, Discovering the Activation Point: Smart Strategies to Make People Act.

Key Findings

  • To determine an "activation point"—when people will take an action that leads to measurable social change—groups need to:

    • Be very clear about who they need to persuade.
    • Understand the barriers that exist for individuals.
    • Know when the timing is right to approach audience targets.
  • Hope is the only essential ingredient in campaigns trying to inspire action. You must make people believe that the situation will get better—with their help.

  • Understanding an audience's comfort zone is essential. There are clear limits to what even the most passionate people are willing to do, especially if the "ask" is outside their comfort zone. Asking people to do things within their comfort zone allows them to feel good about helping without putting themselves at risk.