Today I want to talk about the basics of fundraising. During this season where we are in the midst of a lot of uncertainty, I understand that people are being sensitive when it comes to asking for money. I want to take a step back and talk about why people say yes in the first place and why we don’t have to do anything crazy during this season. We just need to get back to the basics.
In the past few years, neuroscience has shown us that we have three “brains” which are the head brain, the heart brain, and the gut brain. Many of you have heard me talk about the Enneagram, which is a personality test. In the Enneagram, there is a breakdown of how we each process information. Some of us lean toward one area than the other two, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t make decisions with a combination of all three areas. When you’re talking to your donor base, you have to appeal to all three areas. The “head brain” has 86 billion neurons and this is where we process data and numbers. In the “heart brain” there are 40,000 neurons buzzing around and these are tied to feelings and emotions. Finally, there are 100 million neurons in your “gut brain” and this is linked to your intuition. You make decisions that may not seem rational, you don’t have a ton of data to back it up, but it’s just something you feel in your gut. When it comes to your donors, you’ve probably heard them make statements like, “I feel like I’m supposed to be a part of this” or “my gut tells me I’m supposed to get involved.” It just depends on which brain they typically make decisions with. You can tell which one they (and you) lean on based on language cues. So, what does this all have to do with fundraising?
We have to appeal to all three brains. When you think through your fundraising efforts, you need to focus on the storytelling aspect as well as the numbers. We have the ability to create incredible stories about our causes that connect to the heart and provides an emotional connection to what we’re doing. But we can’t only lean on the emotional connection, we must also incorporate the statistics and information to appeal to the highly logical donor; the one who is thinking through all of the details. This is why it’s important to know exactly how much you’re trying to raise and what you’re going to do with those dollars. However, we also have to include the “gut” person. And this one is a lot harder because when it comes to the gut, that person is looking at everything – the story, the statistics, and the branding. When the gut person makes decisions, they are looking at the whole picture and they tend to make snap judgments about people and organizations. How do you know what’s working? Through conversations with your current and past donors. Talk to them about what helped them make the decision to get involved.
With your head, you have got to make sure that in the information you share includes the statistics, numbers, and any other tangible information that relates to why you’re needed. Tell us about the country or community you live in with real statistics so that people know your cause is a good use of their time and money. On the heart side, you need to tug at the heartstrings to make people feel something. You can do this through stories, with photos of people you’ve served, or the work you’ve done in the community. Finally, in order to reach the gut thinkers, you have to have your “stuff” together. That means you need to make everything simple and easy for people to get involved with the work you do. As a donor, don’t make me question whether or not you’re good at what you do; which can happen if you have poor graphics or worse, I can’t figure out what it is you do. This all comes back to messaging. When you’re clear and to the point, this allows people to have a gut reaction to your cause because they have such clarity about what you do. It doesn’t allow for any negativity to creep in.
The best journey you can take someone on is to start with the heart. Know your ‘why’ because the heart is what allows you to keep going (compelling vision). Then, move to the head. Bring in the data to back up the heart. Now, you can jump to the gut. You have an opportunity to be a change agent. You get to be the solution to the problem that changes people’s lives. This is what compels your donors to give because they want to be part of the change. Finally, you go back to the head because it’s time to handle the objections. You want to clear up those objections for your donors and help them see why they are a good fit.
I hope you can see how and why it’s important to incorporate all three parts of the brain. If you only go in the direction that feels most comfortable to you, then you leave too much room for people to say no. When people have clarity, feel connected, and have a conviction, they will write you a check.
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