Changes in the human brain that make fundraising hard to do

Probably the biggest barrier to creating effective fundraising is that you have to get outside your own mind. You have to get a sense of how your message will play to someone else — someone who is very different from you.

The part that really trips up the most people is the way aging changes the human brain.

As we get older, our brains subtly rewire themselves, causing the way we perceive the world and respond to it to change.

As we age, we become more right-brained. More emotional. More story and belief driven.

An overwhelming majority of donors are older — 55 and on up. In fact, the shift toward the right brain is exactly what causes older people to be more likely to donate.

The majority of professionals in fundraising are well under that age. More dependent on their rational, numbers-driven left brains.

That’s what the Good Works Blog notes at How Aging Changes The Way We Read Mail:

… there is a cognitive gap between you and your donor. Your donor is more right-brained than you. And this means that you have to craft copy that uses rich stories, sensory images, and metaphors to speak to that right-brained bias. What works for your donors, won’t work for you. That’s something we all need to remember when we’re writing, proofing, and approving copy.

It can be hard to believe that other people experience the world and think differently.

But it’s true.

When you learn to make that leap from what you think would work based on your own mind to what you know would work based on knowledge of donors …

That’s when you start to succeed as a fundraiser.


Comments

2 responses to “Changes in the human brain that make fundraising hard to do”

  1. Hi Jeff – I love your blog. Thank you for writing it! I’ve learnt a lot from following you.
    Do you have a citation for becoming more right brained as we age? It is fascinating if it is true.
    But I did a quick search just now and it seems like what actually happens is that we start to use our brain more evenly, to compensate for the way our brains slow down as we age.
    So we’d only become more right brained if we are left brained to start with. If we are left brained, we’ll become more right brained.
    I’d be interested to see evidence to the contrary though!
    Thanks
    Lucy

  2. Hi Jeff – I love your blog. Thank you for writing it! I’ve learnt a lot from following you.
    Do you have a citation for becoming more right brained as we age? It is fascinating if it is true.
    But I did a quick search just now and it seems like what actually happens is that we start to use our brain more evenly, to compensate for the way our brains slow down as we age.
    So we’d only become more right brained if we are left brained to start with. If we are left brained, we’ll become more right brained.
    I’d be interested to see evidence to the contrary though!
    Thanks
    Lucy

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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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