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Is Emotion Missing from Your Capital Campaign?

Posted by on March 10th, 2016
Posted in Blog, Capital Campaign    Tags: , , ,

Capital campaigns are launched to raise the money to fill a nonprofit organization’s need.

Case statements are written to prove the rational point that the money is needed and will go to good use.

So it’s no surprise that the arguments prospective donors hear about why they should support a campaign are highly rational, logical, and measured.

Unfortunately, that’s not enough for most donors. If your capital campaign rests solely on the rational reason to give, without stoking emotions, you’re missing the chance to truly engage donors in a way that ensures their enthusiastic, generous support.

We’ve written previously “Why Your Next Capital Campaign Needs a Brand – Not Just A Case” on the right formula for effective capital campaigns, urging our readers to add emotion at every opportunity. Rationale + Urgency + Emotion = Great Case. But how can you add emotion in a way that is compelling and appropriate for your campaign?

Unfortunately, many nonprofit professionals equate emotion with sympathy, and our field is overwhelmed by sticky-sweet, tear-jerking narratives. But as writers and strategists, we have more options than that.

Here are 4 emotions you can stoke for your next campaign. Which ones are right for you?

Pride (1)Pride:
Everyone likes to feel good about themselves, and if your campaign gives them an easy way to do it, then play that up. It may not be the donation itself that results in pride. Can you tap into their very affiliation with you? Can you make a donor feel that she’s being asked because you already see her as an integral part of the campaign’s success? Can you make her feel like a visionary for seeing the bright future the campaign will create?

Fear: It’s an unfair and scary world, and many nonprofits are working to make the world a safer place. Engage your donor deeply in the problem your campaign was formed to address. Paint a picture of what happens if your campaign doesn’t succeed. This isn’t just a manipulative ploy: your campaign is working to address something important and if you fail, it’s going to have a negative effect on people, the planet, or both. Will donors actually lose something they value if your campaign fails? By bolding declaring the reality of a world in which your campaign doesn’t meet its goals, donors can feel comforted by the knowledge that they are part of the solution.

ExcitmentExcitement: This is going to be big. When donors feel like something groundbreaking is happening, they want to be part of it. There’s no use playing small. Whatever outcome you’re trying to achieve with your campaign, make sure donors feel the energy and excitement so they can enjoy the thrill ride with you.

Belonging: Being part of a community feels good. So let your campaign make the donor feel he’s a welcomed member of a group. When you send a message that your organization honors and respects him, you’re giving him the gift of belonging. Make it clear that your campaign’s donors are a special group of people who all share the same values.

sf aids campaign

Now that your copy is the best it can be, take a look at our best practices on how powerful graphic design can bring emotion to your fundraising case for support.

What other emotions have you connected with your campaign? How did it work (or fail)?


Jennie Winton is a Founding Partner of Mission Minded, a 25-year marketing veteran sought for her expertise in branding nonprofit organizations, and a one-on-one leadership coach.

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