Emotion Leads to Action, Reason Leads to Conclusions

As you start your fundraising work for 2022, let me give you a simple idea.

It’s from the Canadian neurologist Donald B Calne:

“The essential difference between emotion and reason is that emotion leads to action, while reason leads to conclusions.”

When you create fundraising, one of your primary goals should be to write and design to reveal the strong emotions held by your donors.

If you can tap into their emotions, you’ll cause more action.

If you cause more action, you’ll raise more money.

So. As you create fundraising this year, aim for the heart. If you or anyone on your staff finds yourselves trying to “convince donors to support us” … you’re most likely creating fundraising that attempts to “reason” donors into giving. You’ll absolutely get some gifts. But you’ll also get a lot of conclusions – which are hard to deposit.

If you want more gifts you can deposit and use to fund your programs, use stories. Talk about shared values. Talk about needs, conflicts and triumphs.

This fundraising thing we’re doing. It’s not hand-wavy. It’s science.


Steven Screen is Co-Founder of The Better Fundraising Company and lead author of its blog. With over 25 years' fundraising experience, he gets energized by helping organizations understand how they can raise more money. He’s a second-generation fundraiser, a past winner of the Direct Mail Package of the Year, and data-driven.

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