Heart and Head or Heart vs. Head?
Conventional wisdom. Best practices. The way it's always been done.
Every so often it's a good idea to dust off the things "everybody knows" and hold them up to the light, just to make sure they're still relevant and true.
For example, "everybody knows" that the best way to motivate donors is to appeal to both the heart and the head. You need to tell a powerful story to engage their emotions, and then show them some statistics to illustrate the need and give you credibility. It's only logical.
Problem is, people aren't logical. This becomes unsettlingly clear in a study you may have heard about. It was done at Carnegie-Melon and written about several years ago in the excellent book, "Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die" by Chip and Dan Heath.
Here's what happened:
Researchers invited participants to take a survey about some technology products. Each person was paid with five one-dollar bills. They also were given a letter asking them to donate to "Save the Children" and a reply envelope.
Researchers divided the participants into two different groups, and each group got a different letter. One letter featured stark and disturbing statistics about child poverty in an Africa. In one country, 3.2 million people lived on the verge of starvation. In another, 2.4 million had access no to clean water. In a third country, 4 million children needed emergency shelter. Serious, urgent crises affecting a huge number of children.
The other letter had none of that. All it did was tell the story of a little girl. "Rokia," it said, "is a 7-year-old girl from Mali, Africa. She's desperately poor and faces a threat of severe hunger or even starvation. Her life will be changed for the better as a result of your financial gift.
Willis Turner believes great writing has the power to change minds, save lives, and make people want to dance and sing. Willis is the creative director at Huntsinger & Jeffer. He worked as a lead writer and creative director in the traditional advertising world for more than 15 years before making the switch to fundraising 20 years ago. In his work with nonprofit organizations and associations, he has written thousands of appeals, renewals and acquisition communications for every medium. He creates direct-response campaigns, and collateral communications materials that get attention, tell powerful stories and persuade people to take action or make a donation.