Feelings often drive decisions.

A true and awkward confession: On the day before going into a small medical procedure, I was a little anxious about the impending discomfort. I was both apprehensive and slightly embarrassed about the procedure, but I was excited about the difference that the procedure could potentially make in my life.

I was anxious before the procedure but expected relief after it. So I went for it.

When your donors receive an appeal from you, how do they feel when they receive it?

Meet Donors In Their Moment

When donors receive your appeal, how can you deeply connect with them about the world, the country, their income and your organization? That’s a lot to consider, but very powerful in respecting and encouraging your donors to join your organization’s mission.

Emotional Intelligence with your donor appeals can improve connection with your donors, as well as response. You can identify their potential feelings through a couple of different ways:

  • Donor Perceptual Study. You will see both the positives and negatives donors feel about your organization. A Donor Perceptual Study helps you make decisions on matters ranging from programming to operations to donor development. It also helps you understand timing for upcoming initiatives like service expansion and capital campaigns. Every organization should consider a Donor Perceptual Study when…
    • Senior Leadership Change to show the new leader the opportunities and challenges ahead for them
    • Significant Initiatives and Decisions arise to see if donors share your vision
    • Donor Appeals need to improve response and connection with donors

Typically, organizations field a Donor Perceptual Study every two to three years from a research firm with experience of getting answers to help you support decisions.

  • Do-It-Yourself Feelings Observations. Thinking over large numbers of donors (not merely a few individuals who called you), what general feeling have you perceived from them. Go ahead and ask them questions on how they feel about the world, the country, their income and your organization when you see them at a donor meeting. Try to diversify the donors you observe and use a structure question set so that you can compare and contrast responses from different people.

The Feeling Wheel Clarifies Donor Frame of Mind

Learn to label the feelings you expect donors will have when your appeal arrives. The Feelings Wheel by Dr. Gloria Willcox helps you identify the tone of your appeal.

Download and open The Feelings Wheel image (on the last page of the document) and you’ll see three rings of emotions that people (including your donors) feel. The center of the wheel represents a more summarized view and the outer two rings are more descriptive.

Here’s how to make The Feeling Wheel work for connecting with your donors:

  1. Print a copy of the wheel. A color print will help, but not required.
  2. With a pen, circle the words that you expect (or your Donor Perceptual Study shows) your donors are feeling toward the world, the country, their income and your organization.
  3. Look at the center emotion that summarizes the majority of those emotions.
  4. Write your letter that opens in a way that helps the donor connect with you before you show the hope that your organization brings.

Showing emotional intelligence can make a huge difference in open rates, response rates and generosity. Take a few moments to set the emotional tone in your writing and increase the connection with your donors.



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