Lead with Emotion When Fundraising with Businesses

Denise McMahan is a guest contributor for Nonprofit Hub, and is the founder and publisher of CausePlanet.org where nonprofit leaders devour Page to Practice™ book summaries, author interviews and sticky applications from the must-read books they recommend.


Welcome to our new Book Review Series by CausePlanet. Each installment in the series offers insights into must-read books, salient excerpts from author interviews and relevant applications from their Page to Practice™ book summaries.

Lead with Emotion When Fundraising with Businesses

“I’m amazed how resistant nonprofits are to emotional appeals. They want to sanitize the appeal to make it more ‘acceptable,’ which is exactly what doesn’t work,” answered cause marketing expert and author Joe Waters when we asked him about the importance of evoking emotion in fundraising campaigns.

Waters added, “It’s ironic that there is a new piece of scientific research every week that shows the central role the emotions play in persuasion. For cause marketing, an emotional appeal has to be your vanguard, the thing with which you lead. So given the choice between asking the customer, ‘Please donate to X hospital?’ or ‘Would you like to donate a dollar to help a sick child?’ the latter is the more persuasive appeal.”

Evoking Emotion in 40 Success Stories

When he’s not advising clients on how to lead with more emotion in their appeals, Joe Waters is sharing success stories from his new book Fundraising with Businesses: 40 New and Improved Strategies for Nonprofits. Each of his 40 chapters is dedicated to a revenue strategy with companies.

It’s More Than Writing a Check

Waters’ objection to nonprofits not embracing the emotional equity they have as nonprofits is part of his overarching message in the book: Nonprofits willing to get creative and identify businesses that want to engage their employees and customers in doing good have much more to gain than charities that simply ask businesses to write a check.

Why Fundraising with Businesses is More Fruitful When You Involve Consumers

Waters claims this is a great time for nonprofits to begin partnering with businesses in more meaningful, engaging ways. “Consumers are driving the rise of cause partnerships,” explains Waters. According to the 2010 Cone Cause Evolution Study:

  • 90 percent of consumers want companies to tell them the ways they are supporting causes.

  • 83 percent of Americans wish more of the products, services and retailers they use would support causes.

  • Support for cause-related partnerships is especially strong from two key consumer groups: moms and Millennials.

Clearly, consumers want to know the business that provides their product or service is rooted in support of its community and engaged in the well-being of those who need help. In other words, consumers are inspired by observing an emotional connection between the community and the company that thrives in it. Fundraisers must look for ways to engage their corporate partners beyond check writing not only because it will yield better results, but also they can leverage what research has already proven.

I’ve excerpted one of Waters’ 40 stories in his book to give you inspiration and a glimpse of why giving customers, employees and businesses a higher connection beyond the simple transaction is so successful:

Share Our Strength and Shake Shack Use Pinups to Fight Hunger

A great example of a midsize partnership is The Great American Shake Sale launched by Shake Shack and Share Our Strength. Over a few weeks in 2012, this modern roadside burger stand blew through its original goal of $25,000 and raised over $135,000 with pinups. Shake Shack’s success wasn’t a fluke. In 2013, they raised a whopping $285,000 for Share Our Strength. Here’s how:

  • They laid the groundwork: Share Our Strength CEO, Billy Shore, spoke with the Shake Shack’s senior management about their program to end childhood hunger, No Kid Hungry. The team was inspired and created The Great American Shake Sale.

  • They trained employees and had fun with it: Every employee was trained about childhood hunger and the importance of making the ask at the register: “Would you like to donate two dollars to end childhood hunger?” Many of the stores had fun with the campaign and created a party-like atmosphere.

  • They incentivized customers: For every $2 donation, Shake Shack gave a $5 coupon for a free shake.

The rest is history. In Waters’ book, you can read his meaty sections that follow this case story, such as “How It Works in 1-2-3,” “Things to Remember,” “Pinups 101,” and “Steal These Ideas!” Who wouldn’t want to read a section called “Steal These Ideas!” in each chapter? Brilliant.

Joe Waters’ 40 case stories—each profiling a different way to partner with companies—in Fundraising with Businesses will have you highlighting passages and writing notes in the margin. When you see businesses in your community, ask yourself how you might build a partnership where the employees and customers can be part of something greater—your cause.

See also:
The End of Fundraising: Raise More by Selling Your Impact
How to Write Fundraising Materials that Raise More Money
The Influential Fundraiser: Using the Psychology of Persuasion to Achieve Outstanding Results

Denise McMahan

Denise McMahan is a guest contributor for Nonprofit Hub, and is the founder and publisher of Cause Planet, where nonprofit leaders devour Page to Practice™ book summaries, author interviews and sticky applications from the must-read books they recommend.

February 7, 2014

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