Donors don’t give because they’re generous. They give because it feels great. And being a hero feels the best.
This isn’t just unicorn thinking. It’s a phenomenon that’s hard-wired deeply in the human brain from millions of years of evolution.
When you tell donors they can “feed hungry children”, “stop human trafficking” or “give twice the hope”, you make them the hero.
This engages a “storytelling switch” that triggers a rush of cortisol and oxytocin throughout their body:
- Cortisol focuses your attention on a problem that needs solving (feeding hungry children).
- Oxytocin magnifies your feelings of empathy, caring, and love.
Can brain chemistry really increase fundraising results?
Short answer: Yes. Every. Single. Time.
Stories are powerful because they transport us into other people’s worlds but, in doing that, they change the way our brains work and potentially change our brain chemistry. – Paul Zak
In fact, the release of these two chemicals are actually predictors of giving behavior. Stories increase fundraising results!
Researchers in one study concluded is that story structure (hook, problem, payoff) kicks off the chemistry associated with giving:
They also found that information without a story structure fails to elicit cortisol and oxytocin.
Asking people to donate money to your nonprofit is a buzzkill
The word “donate” just doesn’t have the same oomph as “give clean water” or “feed hungry children”.
For one thing, “Donate” doesn’t place the donor in the role of the hero as well specific verb-impact phrases.
See your yourself. How do you feel when you read the following verb-impact statements aloud?
- Give clean water
- Feed hungry children
- Stop human trafficking
- Give twice the hope
Each of these asks is associated with a problem (dirty water, hungry children, etc) which triggers empathy. Check out this example from Nothing But Nets:
Take-away: Instead of asking donors to give money to your nonprofit, ask donors to be the hero in your fundraising story. Reinforce the impact they make by giving. Remind them how amazing they are.