Homer Simpson for Nonprofits
The best way to tap in to the emotional mind is through storytelling. Tell very human stories that exemplify the work of your organization, without using statistics. Incorporate these stories into your fundraising and marketing channels.
Consider ways you can connect your donors to the individual beneficiaries of your work. If you can't do restricted fundraising, think of other creative ways to do this. Can your beneficiaries call new donors and thank them for their support? Can you feature donor and beneficiary profiles in your monthly cultivation message?
3. Stick to social norms, not market norms.
Humans have two distinct decision-making rule books: social norms, which are governed by values of community selflessness and altruism; and market norms, which are governed by calculated self-interest.
Social norms are stronger motivators than market norms. In experiments, under many circumstances people will work harder for free than they will for money. Not long ago, AARP asked lawyers to offer services to the elderly at a reduced rate (market norms). The response was dismal. Then they asked for lawyers to provide free services (social norms). Lawyers tripped over one another to volunteer.
If you are a fundraiser, you live every day on the razor's edge between norms. Major-donor fundraising operates primarily on social values. Direct-marketing fundraising operates on a weird hybrid. What does a major donor get for her support? A sense of camaraderie with like-minded philanthropists; influence and access to organizational leaders (which makes her feel even more a part of things); and the potent psychological rewards of knowing she has made a difference in making the world a better place. What does a low-dollar donor get? Tote bags. Water bottles. Calendars. Certificates of adoption. It's largely a market exchange.
Scrutinize your appeals: Are you emphasizing social norms or market exchanges? Make sure you are focused on the emotional rewards of giving. Segment to avoid a hybrid. Some nondonors and low-dollar donors will solely be motivated to give because of market norms — they want the certificate or the calendar. But others are looking for that emotional connection. Identify who in your file responds to what — and give them that. If you must engage in marketplace rewards, ensure they are highly tied to your cause. If you are saving the whales, think plush toy whales, not coffee mugs.