By: Scott Jones, CFRE & Fundraising Auctioneer 

Connected Hearts or Connected Minds-Which is Most Important?

We’ve all heard the suggestion that to fundraise effectively, a connection needs to be established between our mission and BOTH the hearts and minds of our donors. For fundraisers who are naturally influential and charismatic comes naturally. For most of us, we must develop the ability to encourage others to give. All too often winning hearts AND minds feels like a paradox. Why? Donors are intricate and so is fulfilling our mission. Trying to influence both emotion and logic at the same time can be daunting.

In my work as a fundraising adviser and professional auctioneer I have found that it’s incredibly necessary to identify which is most important …connecting hearts or connecting minds when it comes to donor cultivation.  If you can decide, this can greatly streamline a non-profit leader’s approach to fundraising. The goal is to gain the trust of your constituency and influence their point of view so that they give. In most situations, you’ll use both tactics, but identifying which one is likely to be the most compelling up front provides a strong groundwork for your fundraising efforts.

Connecting Hearts

Winning hearts is about connecting donors emotionally to your mission. In any fundraising dialog, you need to connect with others to some degree.  Fundraising is relationship building.  The best method of fundraising is to connect with donors on a very personal level. Use vivid details of your goals to align donors with your vision. Sharing experiences and personal success stories of your recipients is a highly effective means to connect with the emotional heart strings of your donor.”

When cultivating a donor, make sure you highlight what’s in it for them personally.  Consider and discuss what fears or hesitations your donor may have.  Engaging your donor with this simple strategy will build trust and develop a feeling of safety in supporting your mission. Create a deeper connection by learning what motivates your donor to give. Create storytelling moments for your donor to find common ground to unite viewpoints. You still need a logical, well-informed message connected to your mission; but you are at your most compelling when you first appeal to the perspective, fear, or motivation of your donor.

I believe the most creative way to connect others’ hearts is to share why your mission is important and why now is the time to act, and then to highlight how it benefits the donor, your clients, your partners, or the broader community. Notice I did not include how their participation would benefit your organization.  Benefits to the organization are not donor centric and this mindset is a sure fast way to lose donors. Transparency and authenticity are key to connecting hearts to your mission.

Your goal in connecting hearts is to strengthen the relationship with your donor my keeping it as personal as possible. Of course, your goals also must make sense and this is where connecting minds becomes essential.

Connecting Minds

The art of fundraising is merely based on connecting minds with a compelling, well-articulated message and assessment of need in support of your ask. If you’re attempting to encourage giving from a donor, you certainly need a logical case to support your request.  Creating this case for support should be completed with great thought and accuracy and should be done first before any connections are made.

To connect the minds of donors, thoughtfully prepare your Connect to Purpose. Begin by clarifying the situational needs, why the goals are worth reaching, including both what the goals are and why it warrants their consideration. Also, share your confidence that your goals are attainable and the means is which they will be reached.  Establish common ground by sharing your knowledge and evaluations of the necessity at hand, highlighting analysis you’ve done or input from professional consultants. Provide proof to support there’s a need in the form of data, research, expert opinions, and analysis. Discuss the benefits to those you serve in very tangible ways.

To connect minds, you must be knowledgeable and prepared. Many times, we get just one opportunity to inspire donors. Know your donors, their needs and values and be completely prepared to have a meaningful encounter through discussion. When possible, align your strategic plan with what matters personally to the donor by using the methods to connect hearts.

Connecting Both the Heart and the Mind

Understanding and identifying a donor’s linkage, interest and ability should be priority in fundraising effectively. The idea of connecting donors with Like Minds and Like Hearts can be a paradox if you weigh both concepts equally.  I challenge you to identify the donor’s strongest linkage (connection) based on the facts and relationship bonds. Is it more important to appeal to a donor’s passions or to a donor’s rationale? My suggestion is to be mindful of the donor’s needs and motivations and establish a trusting safe partnership with the donor by connecting your purpose with detailed intention. Donor centric fundraising is the foundation of all successful fundraising.