Try Getting Emotional With Your Donors
Most decisions are driven by emotion, not logic. And that is how you need to approach your work in major gifts. Let me set this idea up by having you read what others say about this topic.
Nedra Weinreich writes an interesting blog on facts versus emotions in which she makes the following points:
- In a battle between logic and emotion, emotion will win over facts most of the time.
- Researchers have estimated that 80% of decision-making is emotional, and only 20% is rational. According to Kevin Roberts, CEO of advertising giant Saatchi & Saatchi, “Reason leads to conclusions. Emotion leads to action.”
- The fact is (whether or not it will convince you) emotions are powerful things. Feelings of frustration, patriotism, nostalgia, jealousy or fear can easily outweigh well thought-out, logic-based arguments.
- Combine your most compelling facts with an emotional appeal. This is not a cynical thing to do — this is how our brains work!
Shayna Marks adds a lot of factual information about the role of emotions in decision-making in her article on business.com. Here are some highlights:
One agency set out to prove that emotion plays a huge part in executive decision-making. After surveying 720 senior-level executives found that “nearly two-thirds (65%) of executives say subjective factors that can’t be quantified (including company culture and corporate values) increasingly make a difference when evaluating competing proposals. Only 16% disagree.”
Factors such as reputation, trust and down-right gut instinct also play a huge part in choices when partnering with other businesses. Though numbers help, they are not deciding factors and that “work risks are personal risks. This is why although hard facts inform or color our decisions, we are ultimately influenced by emotion and won over through our hearts, not by data.”
Neuroscience business expert Janet Crawford states that “business is best when the people providing goods and services feel passion and commitment to what they are producing and their customers feel they’ve received value.” The operative word here is “feel.” When we use the term “rational” in business, we usually mean dispassionately data driven and informed by explicit measurable criteria.
In most research, findings show that emotions trump data, but it’s also true that both need to be present in order to make a truly informed business decision. As Christoph Becker, ceo + cco of gyro, put it: “business decisions are made emotionally and justified rationally.”
Becker goes on to say that given these findings, it’s imperative that businesses looking to appeal to other decision-makers must focus on the pure idea of their business, and make them feel.”
The fact is feelings and emotions play a large role in major gift giving. This does not mean you just write and talk with pure emotion all the time. No. It means you insert emotion and feeling into everything you do in major gifts.
I was once with a CEO of a major southwestern nonprofit. We were discussing the role of stories and emotion in the process of fundraising. He asserted that “people just want to have the facts, Richard. If we give them the facts about the need, they will reason their way to giving.”
I pointed out that over the 40 years of my career in fundraising, we had tested his premise over and over again in every form of media: printed, electronic and personal presentation. And that in every case — every case — the facts approach lost. This is a fact.
This is why Jeff and I are always encouraging you to take your major donor to the need so they can experience and feel the problem your organization is addressing. Notice I said feel the problem. Not just understand it. Feel it. And we are repeatedly talking about having our hearts broken by the state of the planet and breaking the donor’s hearts as well. Is this a manipulation? No. It is about being present to reality.
The fact is that every caring donor is passionate about doing something to solve a problem in our world. They feel strongly about it. And if you could peel back all the blocks to transparency, you would see the true feelings every donor has. And seeing that you would be struck by the fact that they feel deeply about what they care about. And it breaks their heart to see things going wrong in that area.
So, be assured that what Jeff and I are saying about this is true, and then take steps to insert feelings and emotions into everything you do with your donors. Don’t leave out the facts. They do help, and they lend credence to your case. But the emotions are what will bring your donor to a decision. Let your heart lead you. It will be good.
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.