Is emotion dishonest in fundraising?

Is there someone on your organization’s staff (or board) who wants you to turn down the emotional content of your fundraising because they believe emotion is dishonest or manipulative?

Do they tell you to “stick with the facts” because making the rational case with facts and numbers is the only honorable way to motivate people to donate?

Apparently that person has never fallen in love, held a baby, or watched a sunset.

Because those things — and hundreds of other experiences like them — teach us that emotional information is meaningful. In some ways, it’s a lot more meaningful than statistics and facts.

You can lie and manipulate with statistics just as well as you can with emotions. It’s your duty to tell the truth in any situation, and always to treat your donors with respect.

But you can’t raise funds effectively with statistics. Because that’s not how the human brain processes stuff. And assuming your donors will respond to a message that doesn’t give them goosebumps, or tears, or an elevated heartbeat … that’s just unrealistic.

So be as emotional as you can teach yourself to be when you raise funds. It’s the honest way to work.

(This post first appeared on February 9, 2016.)


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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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