Emotion in fundraising – how much is too much?

by guest blogger George Crankovic, Senior Writer at TrueSense Marketing he blogs at The Clued-in Copywriter.

Guilt-tripping. Emotional blackmail. Poverty porn. These are the phrases you see when the debate turns to the topic of emotion in fundraising. It’s almost as if using emotion is somehow bad or unethical.

A recent article on SOFII — The positives and negatives of emotional fundraising — takes this up. One of the conclusions is that negative emotions like guilt can highlight a problem, but positive emotions like hope and benevolence will create more behavioral change.

Now, we’ve all seen the “shock” ads that are produced for nonprofits, and often those ads are criticized for their over-the-top use of guilt and other negative emotions.

So does this mean — since we obviously do want to create behavioral change — that we should use only positive emotions in copy?

That would be like suggesting a marketing campaign use only positive emotions. Ad people would reject that idea, and for a very good reason.

Human beings are not one-dimensional in any area of life. From our personal lives to our work lives and everything in between, we experience a range of emotions and often conflicting ones. Even when we think we’re being rational — like making an important decision —  we’re still driven mostly by emotions, positive and negative.

Why should our charitable giving be any different? Especially given that virtually all experienced fundraisers will confirm that negative emotions drive most charitable giving.

To get donors’ attention, it’s almost essential to use strong emotions like guilt or fear. But why stop there?

You can pair negative emotions with positive ones in messaging: guilt and hope, fear and benevolence, and so on.

But, again, why stop there?

There are lots of motivators to choose from. The most frequently cited are:

  • Anger
  • Exclusivity
  • Fear
  • Flattery
  • Greed
  • Guilt
  • Salvation

To which, we could add benevolence, hope, love, compassion, outrage, salvation, and many more.

So, instead of being restricted to one or two motivators, why not use as many as possible?

In fact, cram in as many motivators as you can into your appeals. Go overboard. The more, the better. Wear your heart on your sleeve.

Your appeals will have more passion and more power. Your donors will have more to connect with, more to latch onto, more to react to, and the result will be better response and maybe even better retention.


Comments

2 responses to “Emotion in fundraising – how much is too much?”

  1. Narratives and storytelling engage consumers’ subconscious and create an emotional connection with the brand and the story. Keeping in mind the concepts presented above, you can establish value for your audience, sell your solution and minimize post-purchase regret. From there, you can continue strengthening your emotional connection with your audience to build long-term, profitable relationships.

  2. Narratives and storytelling engage consumers’ subconscious and create an emotional connection with the brand and the story. Keeping in mind the concepts presented above, you can establish value for your audience, sell your solution and minimize post-purchase regret. From there, you can continue strengthening your emotional connection with your audience to build long-term, profitable relationships.

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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