Research finds that emotion outranks reason in successful fundraising

Every once in a while, researchers catch up with what smart fundraisers have known for a long time. This time, in research reported at the Hilborn blog (at Is your charity under-delivering on the most important drivers of donor appeal?), it’s the amazing fact that emotion, not reason, is the key driver of charitable giving!

The research uncovered…

… the significant importance of emotional and personal connections felt by donors. These characteristics are more important than the rational elements we see so often in charity solicitations and appeals; the ones about the relevance of the cause, trust, operating efficiency and mission impact. The interesting disconnect was that most non-profits are under-delivering on these key emotional drivers of fundraising success, often spending valuable resources reassuring donors on the less important, rational messages.

There are plenty of good reasons people should support your cause. But those reasons don’t drive people to donate.

Keep that in the front of your mind all the time when you work on your fundraising!

People give because of the way you make them feel: sad, guilty, joyful, important, needed, heroic …

Those rational reasons they “should” give? Those things are important. But they don’t cause people to give! Put them behind the emotional reasons!


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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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About the blogger

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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