Don’t let your head get in front of your heart

publication date: Feb 7, 2012
author/source: Jonathon Grapsas
Jeff Brooks posted on Future Fundraising Now a few weeks back about What do donors really want to do. He talked wisely about the need to counter what people say they'll do with what they actually do. That's great direct response advice. Jonathon Grapsas photo

Emotions win. All the time.

In the post Jeff talks about what motivates people to give and states that "... the offers that work best are super-simple, emotional, and often a bit shortsighted. Providing a meal for a hungry child will always beat creating systems that keep the child from going hungry."

For me this is about focusing on emotion, and putting aside the notion that there must some element of rational argument within any ask.

In mass-scale direct response fundraising, telling emotional stories wins hands down. Yet the number of times I've heard, seen, listened to or been hounded to provide a rational case as part of a request for money is staggeringly high.

A lot of fundraising that I see that fails usually does so not because it wasn't a great idea, but because the messaging was poor, disjointed and/or unclear. Note, this isn't to say there isn't a role in fundraising for logic, rational thinking, talking about programs rather than people, but rarely does it supersede bloody good, compelling stories when it comes to the direct response world.

Your direct-response checklist

Some things to consider when creating direct response fundraising campaigns (creating stories):
  • Is there a good story attached to this appeal, or is simply a good idea? I'd argue the former must sit alongside the latter.
  • Have you sat down with your team and discussed, debated and made clear exactly what it is you're trying to tell your audience? What's the one thing they need to know and then do right now?
  • Why is what you do unique? What do you do better than anyone else?
A rational explanation may make someone listen, but a human story told properly will compel people to act.

Jonathon Grapsas is the founder and director at flat earth direct, an agency dedicated to fundraising and campaigning for good causes. Jonathon spends his time working with charities around the world focused on digital, direct response and campaigning stuff.

If you'd like to chat to Jonathon you can email him, follow him on twitter @jonathongrapsas or check out

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