He’s caught between his tidy Vulcan logic and messy human emotion. Most of the time, he relies on Vulcan cool. That wouldn’t work well for fundraising, though.
Human beings don’t make purely rational decisions. This isn’t my guess; it’s science.
We make decisions in the older part of our brains. They’re based on emotion and cues developed through evolution. We’ve learned to quickly identify danger (Lion! Hide!) and opportunity without first having to sift through logical arguments for and against taking action.
Emotion gets us to the decision fast. Then the rational, “thinking brain” kicks in and justifies the decision.
People whose frontal lobes no longer connect with emotions have trouble making decisions. We need that emotional input first.
So our persistent desire to attribute decisions to logic is funny. As Mr. Spock would say, “That’s not logical, Captain.”
Many dedicated fundraisers believe an iron-clad, rational case for support will be rewarded with funding.
I understand the urge. It’s partly about merit – “if I work hard enough to build this case…” And it’s partly about associating rationality and intelligence.
After all, when we tell someone they’re being emotional, it’s usually not a compliment.
But if you want to fundraise better, you’ll need to change your thinking. Instead of “lizard brain”, think “deeply human”. Using emotion is the way to raise money. It’s how we make choices. And it’s how we relate to other people.
And that’s the crux of it, right? It’s our love for other people (or animals or the planet) that drives us. It’s also what drives our donors.
Get in touch with your emotional side
Emotional fundraising doesn’t mean unintelligent fundraising. It doesn’t belittle you or your donors. The smartest fundraisers I know understand how important emotion is and use it deftly.
It doesn’t need to be manipulative, either. But that’s more about your intent than about emotions. Can you press certain buttons and get a predictable reaction from a percentage of people? Sure. Commercial marketers do it all the time.
That may win a sale, but there’s work beyond that to win a relationship.
Emotional fundraising will be most successful when it’s sincere. When its purpose is to bring donors together with needs they care about. And when it’s part of a process leading toward relationships, not one-offs.
What does that mean for you, Spock?
You’ll need to be vulnerable.
Want to write compelling appeals? You’ll need to put yourself in the place of the people in need. You’ll need to feel scared or sad. You’ll need to speak from those feelings to speak for those people.
And you’ll need to put yourself in the place of your donor. You’ll need to imagine how hearing about the need makes her feel. Are you triggering strong enough emotions? Are you cutting to the heart of it?
Don’t worry. Logic will tag along.
Logic is just a few beats away. But try to keep it from tripping up the process.
That’s why you want giving to be as easy as possible. Put your rational hat on, for sure, when you look at your response form or online process. As people who are strangers to your organization or to fundraising to give it a look. Don’t ask logic to step forward and try to make sense of it all.
Keep emotion in the lead by making it as intuitive as possible.
Then get your data entered perfectly. Logically. Intelligently. Analyze to your brain’s content and enjoy it. (I do.)
Just remember that rational fundraising isn’t rational. Fundraise human instead.
A quick note
Last week I sent subscribers a short survey. Thank you to everyone who responded. What I learn will help determine what I write about here. If you’d like to add your voice, it’s not too late – just follow this link.
Photo: By Desilu Productions/NBC Television example of this type of logo for NBC. The network also sometimes issued card-like photos like this one. (eBay item front) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons