- Thu, March 15 2012
- Filed under: Fundraising essentials
A recent article by Ken Burnett in the Showcase of Fundraising Innovation and Inspiration (known as SOFII) caught my eye. It was titled, “The emotional brain,” my favorite topic, and it made links between how we think and why we give.
He offers a very eloquent observation:
First impressions last. Sure they do. This is a transformational insight, the single biggest realization of all. It explains things that many fundraisers often feel intuitively but mostly haven’t quite rationalized and that others miss altogether. Such as the surge of emotion when we see a child in distress, the appeal in the direct gaze of a child’s eyes that means all we have to say is, ‘sponsor me’; no more explanation is needed. Or the sweating palms and lump in the throat conjured by the mere image of those soldiers in first world war trenches, waiting for that whistle. Or the recall of time, place and feelings prompted by a piece of music from our past, or by the smell of perfume, or the taste of an exotic fruit. Think Amnesty’s long copy ads, children running from exploding shells, or waiting in food queues at times of famine, or the tired, shocked, dripping lifeboatman just washed in from the sea.
How powerful are the emotions conjured by images such as these? How useful would it be to consistently harness them to your cause? Well, the emotional scenes are already there or they can be planted there to be called upon later, if only we get better at emotional storytelling, at presenting our emotional case with power and passion that will burn the memory of our story so deep that it will last and last long term, to be called upon again and again, whenever needed.
I could not agree more, and I could not have said it better. When we see or hear someone’s pain, our own neurons fire in the same way they would if we were feeling that pain ourselves. We want to help others, and when we do, we’re rewarded with happy feelings – and a dopamine dose to our brain’s pleasure center. If we as advocates of good causes do our job well, we elicit those reactions. Burnett is right - our task is to burn the memory with a story so deep it evokes primal pain and joy.
He also shares these great details from Damian O’Broin’s neuromarketing checklist. Enjoy. And do check out the full column at SOFII. It’s excellent. You’ll get Limbic Brain 101 and learn the difference between sharks and toasters.