Messaging: Which Works Best—the Head or the Heart?
It’s a funny and, sometimes, very uncomfortable thing. I am talking about feeling and expressing emotion. On one side, there are people who are in a constant state of tears and drama. On the other side, there are those who find it very difficult to express any kind of emotion.
You’ve seen both types of people, and you know what it all means.
I’ve wondered how a person who is more controlled in the expression of emotion actually works in fundraising—especially in major gifts. This is not an area where you can do well without deeply feeling the cause with which you are involved, as you could in a research lab.
Now, hang on a minute. If you find it more difficult to express emotion, believe me, I am not judging you. I do understand where you are coming from. What I am trying to do here is talk about the role of emotions and feelings in major gift work.
Jeff and I are passionate people. We feel strongly about all kinds of things. You should see us argue and debate, you would think it was an all-out fight. But after we have debated all the intellectual points of an issue, we always come back to the heart and to the human side of things—to how it affects people and their journeys, their hopes and dreams, their opportunities, their quality of life, and their happiness and fulfillment.
Isn’t that what it’s all about?
Isn’t the bottom line of all we do—helping major donors find fulfillment in their giving, helping our organizations secure the funds to do their missions, etc.—about aiding human beings to reach their physical, emotional and spiritual potentials, and caring for our planet? Seems like that to Jeff and me.
And this journey, in our opinion, is not, at its core, only a journey of the intellect—facts, systems, strategies and processes. It is a thing of the heart. It is about feeling deeply for the condition of human kind and our planet.
I live in a beautiful place—Marco Island, Fla. I usually get up quite early. And when I do, I look out the window, and I experience a feeling, which is always the same. It happens in a nanosecond, but it always happens. If I were to verbalize it, it would sound something like this:
“I am so thankful I am alive today and healthy. I am thankful to have a wonderful woman, my wife, in my life, as well as her love and commitment. What a great thing to have Jeff, who is really passionate about his work and life and wants to make a difference, as my business partner. And I am grateful for my associates, friends and family—and my dog, whom I love. I have so much. It is so good to be so close to nature—to see all those plants and animals facing a new day and expressing, in their own ways, their uniqueness and creativity. I am so thankful to be able to do my part in helping others through the work I do. I am so blessed.”
And then I sit with my wife for a half hour or so, with a good cup of coffee, and we just connect.
That is how I start mostly every day. It is truly a heart moment.
Now, if you knew me well, you would know I am about getting things done—about lists, priorities and objectives. I am a nut about planning, organizing and solving problems. So, the information, systems, facts—those things of the head—they are an important part of my work.
But it is the things of the heart that drive me. I want to make a difference in the lives of those around me, here at home and in my work, which brings me to why I am writing about this today.
When you look at the essence of what you are doing, at the content of your work and your messaging, is it primarily all about facts, information and logic? Or, is your heart engaged as well? Stop and take an inventory:
- Does the messaging on your website mostly convey facts and information? Or, does it talk about changing lives and making a difference on our planet?
- Would your brochures, videos and annual reports grab our hearts? Or, would they just fill up our heads with stuff?
- Are your proposals to foundations, corporations and individuals more like a research paper? Or, do they engage the reader with the great things he or she could do in changing lives?
- Are your emails, letters and phone calls just taking care of business? Or, would I see (and hear) your heart in them?
- Are your staff meetings a series of minutes where you discuss policies, protocols and problems, and dispense information to become more effective or efficient? Or, do they also contain at least 15 minutes of heart-grabbing stories that remind you why you are here and what is important?
Here’s the point: We have way too much information happening in our daily discourse. We have way too many clinical sterile facts and figures that fill our heads and our messaging with process, systems, outcomes and logic. All of this is important, but where is the heart? If you do not engage the heart in your messaging or in life, then I fear you will lose your way.
This great journey we are all on is, at its core, a thing of the heart. The head just guides us to do the right things in the right way. Make sure you lead with the heart in all of your messaging today. It will make a tremendous difference in the quality of your life and you immediately will notice the difference in the positive reactions of others around you.
If you’re hanging with Richard it won’t be long before you’ll be laughing.
He always finds something funny in everything. But when the conversation is about people, their money and giving, you’ll find a deeply caring counselor who helps donors fulfill their passions and interests. Richard believes that successful major-gift fundraising is not fundamentally about securing revenue for good causes. Instead it is about helping donors express who they are through their giving. The Connections blog will provide practical information on how to do this successfully. Richard has more than 30 years of nonprofit leadership and fundraising experience, and is founding partner of the Veritus Group.