5 emotional triggers for fundraising

How do you create a strong connection with your donors? One way is to use emotional triggers in appeals. Let’s take a look at some, discussed in my guest post, that you’ll want to know about:

  1. Altruism. Altruism is concern for others, and it’s pretty much hard-wired into humans. One way to tap into it is with a compelling story about a beneficiary who’s suffering – a story that tugs on the heartstrings to elicit concern and sympathy. Other ways include adding photos that show need, reminding donors of past giving (acts of altruism), and coming out and saying, “You’re a good person. The fact that you’re reading this letter tells me you care about people who are hurting.”
  2. Outrage. Donors are inclined to take action when there’s a wrong that needs to be righted. Like altruism, it’s hard-wired. It goes to the very core of our sense of fair play, and when that’s violated, donors get riled up. “Look at what fracking does. It fouls the air we breathe. It pollutes the water we drink. It speeds up climate change. It’s destroying our planet. I’m not going to stand for it. Are you?”
  3. Guilt. This emotional trigger is one of the most powerful. Everyone has experienced it, and it’s part of almost any cause. When you contrast the donor’s relatively comfortable life with that of someone who’s homeless, say, or living in abject poverty in a developing country, the result is likely to invoke a feeling of guilt. “As I watched little Amina lying in that bed in the clinic, barely breathing, beyond hope, drifting away, I kept asking myself, ‘Why do we have so much when this innocent child in Ghana is starving to death?’”
  4. Fear. Judging from its use in commercial marketing, fear may be the single most powerful motivator. Don’t avoid it in fundraising. Use it to get donors involved. “When drug addiction increases, so does the crime that goes with it. What will happen in our neighborhoods? What will we do when burglaries and muggings skyrocket? How will we keep our homes secure? How will we protect our children?” To stir a powerful reaction from donors is to use fear as a motivator.
  5. Exclusivity. You want the donor reading your appeal to think she’s the most important person in the world in that moment. “Your generosity really sets you apart as a truly committed and beloved supporter. You’re at the heart of this work to end homelessness.” Exclusivity as a motivator is also a natural for sustainer appeals that invite donors to become monthly supporters. “You’re invited to join this select group of supporters who believe in putting a stop to child abuse.” Exclusivity is also an effective motivator in appeals to higher-dollar donors. “The extraordinary generosity you’ve demonstrated puts you way out front as a leading advocate in the pro-life movement.”

You can use these in all kinds of ways in appeals, and it’s good to use as many as possible. They create a stronger connection between your donor and your cause – a connection that’s going to bring your donors closer to your nonprofit and motivate them to give.

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