CHOICES – You, Me, and the Donor

Posted by on Jan 23, 2012 | 0 comments

Joanne Kathleen Rowling said, “It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” How true this statement is, both in life and in fundraising.

Every day we have the opportunity to choose. I believe this is something we take for granted, or at times, maybe even take advantage of.

“Let me choose,” is one of our first experiments with self-sufficiency. Aren’t those “terrible two’s” all about personal choice over parental direction?

Our lives are a sum total of the choices we make, good and bad, right and wrong. We are the product of our choices.

Donors make choices every day too. They open their mail and find solicitation letters from numerous nonprofit organizations, many with compelling messages and passionate missions.

How do they choose? How do we make good choices in life? How does a donor make the right choice when selecting a charity to support?

In both cases, emotions play a large part in the decisions that are being made.

Humans are, well, human. We want to be liked. We want to make a difference. We want to feel emotion, this reaffirms that we are vibrant, alive and of value.

Jono Smith has written, “Feelings, not analytical thinking, drive donations. According to a new study (PDF link) conducted by Deborah Small, a Wharton marketing professor, and colleagues George Loewenstein & Paul Slovic, if organizations want to raise money for a charitable cause, it is far better to appeal to the heart than to the head.”

But in fundraising, just as in life, the emotional appeal must be sincere and have staying power. A quick emotional high is not sustainable, in social settings as well as in donor relationships.

An article at stated the following:

A totally emotional decision is typically very fast. This is because it takes time (at least 0.1 seconds) for the rational cortex to get going. This is the reactive (and largely subconscious) decision-making that you encounter in heated arguments or when faced with immediate danger.

Common emotional decisions may use some logic, but the main driving force is emotion, which either overrides logic or uses a pseudo-logic to support emotional choices (this is extremely common).

Another common use of emotion in decision is to start with logic and then use emotion in the final choice.

As a fundraiser, attracting a potential donor’s attention by appealing to their emotions is an authentic and acceptable effort. We want their attention.

It’s the follow-up after the donation that can make the difference between a one-time donation and long-term support.  Emotional heart tugs are important reminders of the compelling mission a donor is supporting.  Logical affirmations to donors showing strong content, forward progress, and good stewardship confirm the correctness of their initial decision to give.

And in life, our emotions can rush in and take over as well, causing all logic to fade. It’s in these adrenaline-fueled moments that a deep breath can make us or break us by providing the time needed to think clearly, remember our values, and maintain our principles.

Integrity is a critical trait. It helps us to think through and balance our choices.

As a fundraiser, the choices we make when interacting with donors, communicating with partners, and sharing our organization’s story can make or break our fundraising efforts. Telling the truth, responding in a timely manner, being transparent and delivering on promises should be key components of your donor retention efforts. Choose your words carefully and balance them with logic and emotion. Keep your donors informed.

Life is about choices. You have them. Your donors have them.

Have fun along the way (emotion), stay balanced (logic), and most importantly…choose well.

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