Improving Fundraising Outcomes Requires Emotion Not Just Logic

July 21, 2017 Pamela Barden

This blog post originally appeared in npENGAGE.

A recent webinar was entitled, “Using Neuroscience to Improve Your Fundraising Results.” Several studies lately have delved into modern science to help fundraisers be more effective in engaging donors in the cause.

But there isn’t a single topic that can be covered in webinar or article that can replace a genuine connection with your donors.

Yes, your nonprofit is “a good cause.” You are doing important work that will not get done if you don’t raise enough money to carry on. But for many donors, giving is far more emotional, and it’s dependent on the confluence of several factors:

  1. Belief that this cause is the most important (or at least one of the more important) options that I am currently aware of;
  2. Seeing your organization as a better choice than any others that sound similar to me;
  3. Confidence that you can do what you say you can do;
  4. Enough disposable income that I can make a contribution.

Don’t get me wrong; I love research and studies that help us be better at what we do. But I am convinced that the mot scientifically constructed “ask” or strategy can’t make up for a donor’s lack of money or a lack of confidence in your organization.

And nothing takes the place of really understanding people and what drives them to do what they do—in this case, to give to your organization.

In our busyness and efforts to streamline “life,” it can be easy to forget that many people want a personal connection. I regularly go to a restaurant–with hardly the best décor or the most trendy food–simply because I walk in and am greeted by name. In a world of superficiality, the staff at that diner—a friend refers to them as my “rent-a-friends”–makes me feel connected to someone else for at least as long as my meal lasts.

Have you lost touch with your donors?

If your fundraising is on shaky ground or even just flat, ask yourself if you have lost touch with your donors. Many of them want to be noticed; they want you to listen to them, laugh with them, possibly pray for them–and most of all, appreciate them. When they call, write, email or talk to you face-to-face, they want to feel like you see them as “me,” not as “them.”

When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion – Dale Carnegie

Research is great. Neuroscience can be very helpful. Don’t ignore it. But never let it replace a sincere connection with the individual person behind every single dollar that is donated to your organization. Because if you forget about “me, your donor,” you lose a critical connection to what keeps your organization going.

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