Here’s a post on another great session I attended at the March 16 Nonprofit Technology & Communications Conference.
The session, called “Email EQ — Tips to Tap the Emotional Brain,” was energetically presented by Cary Walski, MAP for Nonprofits and SocialGood.us, and Kevin Watson, Hamline University, and based on research by psychologist Paul Slovic, Ph.D., author of Why We Care and creator of the term “psychic numbing.”
So, here’s a quick recap of Cary and Kevin’s take on how and why to engage the emotional brain when sending a fundraising email.
First a quick recap of the traits of the two parts of the brain:
- The emotional brain, which we’re born with, is fast: it likes stories and wants visual, concrete language.
- The rational brain, which develops through schooling and experience, is slow, rational, analytical and abstract.
When you send an email with a donation appeal, you want the recipient to react quickly and emotionally — you want to engage their emotional brain.
And, according to Slovic, the formula for maximum giving is:
Attention + Message = Feelings = Helping
So, now that you know the formula and a bit about how the brain works, how do you put them together to increase donations?
Start by keeping four insights in mind:
1. Make your message TANGIBLE.
Ensure your message is immediately understandable — simple language, a short story and engaging photos help.
2. Avoid statistics of SCOPE.
When hit with a huge number, such as “one million dead,” the brain is simply not up to the task of processing it. Statistics of this scope overwhelm and depress people and psychic numbing — feeling nothing emotionally or in our guts — sets in.
3. Tell the story of the ONE.
Focus on one individual and tell their story, with biographical details. People are more likely to help one real person and feel like their contribution actually makes a difference.
4. Maintain EYE CONTACT.
A human face is a powerful image, so include a picture of the person whose story you have chosen to tell. Maintain the picture of the face throughout your ask.
If you’re met with skepticism about this approach in your organization, consider testing by sending two emails — one that’s similar to emails you’ve sent in the past and a second one tapping into recipients’ emotional reactions. See if one raises more money than the other.
And, always measure your results to see what works best for your audience!
Handouts from all of the conference sessions can be found here.
- Susan Stehling, MCF communications associate