emotion raises money

I saw this poster recently. Notice the tagline down at the bottom . . . “emotions make you move.” (It’s for a casino of all things).

It got me to thinking about how often ministries and nonprofits forget that truth: emotions move people.

Don’t be afraid of making emotional appeals to donors. In fact, your messages to donors should be chockfull of emotion.

Go for the throat.
Pedal to the emotional-metal.
Wide-open emotional impact.
Turn the emotion volume up to 11 (a little Spinal Tap reference for you).

“Whoa, whoa, WHOA!” you’re saying. “Wait a minute. We don’t want to manipulate or coerce our donors or make them feel guilty. We just want to tell them our need and let them make a thoughtful decision.”

The argument continues, “If we just tell them the facts, they’ll make a thoughtful, prayerful decision.”

Yep. I’ve heard that. I’ve had clients tell me that. The truth is, that’s wrong. Sorry.

If you only tell potential donors the facts, the vast majority will remain potential donors not actual donors. I’d even say that if you want your current donors to stay current, the rule applies.

Facts alone won’t motivate donors. It takes emotion to break through the clutter. You must have a rallying cry of a great need! You have to excite people to join your cause. You need a lump in their throats to motivate them to action.
Trust me on this one: facts alone won’t do it.

Some will tell you that Major Donors are fact driven. Nope. Major Donors are just like your other donors. They must have an emotional connection and motivation, too. (The Major Donor component of this will require another blog post but for now: if you disagree, why do so many buildings have donor names on them? Is that fact-based? Don’t think so. But that’s another blog post).

Give a full blast of emotion. Want a good rule of thumb of when you have enough emotion in a message? If you’re not nervous about having too much emotion in the message you don’t have enough.

What kind of emotional themes should you craft?

Never do guilt. Ever. Don’t guilt your donors about budgets or programs. That’s worse than ignoring emotion. Just forget about guilt.

So how do you do it?

Paint the picture of how they will change a life.

Demonstrate how they can change hopelessness into hope.

Show how they can destroy the power of evil in a child’s life.

Help them feel the despair of poverty and joy of helping someone become self-sufficient.

Plant the seeds of outrage over sex trafficking and child slavery.

Fill their minds with thoughts of indignation over injustices done to the innocent.

Help them feel the devastation of hopelessness…

Rally them to join you in an adventure (hopefully there are fearsome giants and terrible forces to overcome).

Use facts and stats to support your message but aim for the heart.

Remember, you don’t want your potential donors to be all blasé and only think “ummm, that’s interesting.”
You want them to feel outrage over a wrong.
You want them to feel joy for rescuing a child.
You want them to feel tears on their cheeks.
You want them to feel satisfaction swell in their chests for helping.
You want them to feel a lump in their throats as they decide that they have to help . . . have to volunteer . . . have to become a champion.

If your cause is just . . .
If your mission is true . . .
If your dream is lofty . . .
If you’re changing the world . . .
If you’re asking donors to join in a mighty cause . . .
Go ahead. Grab ‘em by the throat. That’s not manipulation, that’s telling them the truth.

So what do you think? Is your mission worth getting worked up about? Are you comfortable with injecting some good ol’ emotion into your messaging? I’d love to hear what you think.


Steve Thomas
Partner, Oneicity

(photo credit: Steve Thomas)

Steve Thomas

Steve Thomas

2 thoughts on “emotion raises money”

  1. Bravo! I have a cause that is deserving of an emotional response. It would only be manipulation if it was not true. I’m not keen on “going for the throat.” But I will passionately pursue “winning the heart.”

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