Why Reason Alone Doesn’t Work in Fundraising

You want people to join your email list, donate to your organization, or take some other kind of specific action to support your nonprofit. But no matter how much you explain the logic and reasons for doing so, they just won’t take action.

If this sounds like you, your problem is that you’re trying to appeal to logic and reason, instead of telling stories that appeal to emotions.

But don’t take my word for it. Brain scientists have recently discovered that us humans make decisions unconsciously, based on emotions and NOT reason.

Basic Biology of the Brain

I’m not a biologist, but here’s some basic common knowledge about the primary parts of the brain I was able to piece together from Wikipedia:

  • Neocortex Brain: This part of our brain handles rational thought and language. It’s the most recent part of the brain to appear in human evolution.
  • Limbic Brain: Responsible for feelings like love, trust, and loyalty, as well as all behavior and decisions. This is the primal part of our brain that has existed for millions of years.
  • Reptilian Brain: This part of our brain that controls breathing, heart-rate, and other autonomic nervous system functions. It basically keeps you alive while you make decisions, but only plays a small role in decision-making.

When you communicate to your constituents with facts and statistics, you are appealing to their analytical nature (Neocortex Brain), which doesn’t drive action. Understanding why you should run from an attacking tiger (Neocortex Brain) doesn’t work as well as feeling afraid for your life (Limbic Brain).

When you use stories and images (emotional content) to communicate, you are speaking directly to the part of the brain that controls emotions, trust, decision-making, and action-taking. And these largely unconscious processes are the primary drivers of action (donating, volunteering, joining, clicking).

What do you think?