Nonprofit Marketing to Win Donors’ Hearts and Minds

Khaled Allen
Khaled Allen


We know that most people make purchasing, and donating, decisions based on their emotions. That’s why a compelling story is so important to successful nonprofit marketing and crowdfunding campaigns. But if your nonprofit marketing is all about emotional appeal, it can turn donors off. You also need to provide strong reasoning and data.

So how do you balance these two elements? Donors won’t even notice you if you don’t appeal to their emotions, but they are going to want to see numbers before they reach for their wallets.

Start with the Heart

Groundbreaking research by Nobel Prize winner and psychologist Daniel Kahnman shows that people overwhelmingly prefer to work with others they like rather than those with good ideas or well-reasoned claims. What this means is that you should try to establish a connection with your donors at the beginning of your nonprofit marketing.

Additionally, your biggest obstacle at the beginning of your pitch is giving your donors a reason to care, not convincing them to donate. This is because, in the beginning, they don’t know who you are or what your cause is. They have no reason to be interested and they aren’t even asking themselves whether a donation is a good idea or not. Once they care, then you can appeal to reason. So, open your marketing message with an emotional appeal (this is where good storytelling comes in).

Go for the Head

Few people get excited by numbers at the beginning, but once they are emotionally invested, they will want to see the data. This is where your marketing can anticipate and answer as many questions as possible.

If you have the opportunity to talk with your audience to find out what questions they have, this can make your job easier. Pay attention to what discussions are taking place in comments of social media channels or recurring issues in your email communications with donors.

Remember to call on past donors. They can be a great source of information on where your pitch stumbled a bit. They will be willing to provide an outsider’s perspective. This information can help you figure out exactly what data to address.

Call the Heart to Action

We like to have reasons to justify our action, but ultimately, people take action because they care, so once you’ve provided your audience with good reasons, give them a kick in the butt to actually hit that donate button by appealing to their heart again.

Summary of Nonprofit Marketing that Wins Hearts and Minds

Here’s a cheat sheet for you to keep in mind as your craft your fundraising marketing plan.

  1. Hook the Heart: Initial interest is built through an emotional appeal. Your donors need to care and you can help them get there by telling a story or showing impactful videos and pictures of the people you are trying to help.
  2. Use data to emphasize the need: Pictures can carry a lot of weight, as does a story about a specific family or individual, but they only show one instance. Include some numbers to show the donor the extent of the need.
  3. Data proves the solution: Once you have shown the need and emphasized it with some numbers or infographics, show the donor how you will fix it. This is where you roll out all your research, polling, and case studies. Show the donor that you know what you’re doing and exactly what kind of impact their money will have.
  4. Tie it up with a bang: The last thing your pitch should do is drive home the emotional impact of the donor’s contribution. The common line, “X dollars sends a child to school for a year,” clearly demonstrates the connection between the data–cost and value–with the emotional and human impact–a child’s education. Top it off with an emotionally powerful success story, especially a testimonial.

Examples of Nonprofit Marketing that Targets the Heart

  • Pictures of happy people enjoying the results of your work
  • Videos showing people struggling with the problem you are addressing and then after you contribute
  • Videos contrasting the donor’s situation with the beneficiaries (here’s a great example of one that is done tastefully.

  • Stories written by beneficiaries talking about your work and how it has changed their lives
  • Testimonials of donors who have participated in the past, talking about the emotional impact of helping
  • Stories and anecdotes that share your experience working with your beneficiaries

Examples of Nonprofit Marketing that Targets the Head

  • The cost comparison between what is going on now and what your work can do
  • The number of people struggling and the number who can be helped by your work
  • The number you’ve helped already
  • The number that an individual donor can help, and specific data on how their donation will help
  • Timeframes for your work to take effect

For a brilliant explanation of this two-pronged approach to marketing, check out this article on by Sandra Zoratti, an author, speaker, and marketer who recently published the book “Precision Marketing.”

Keep these guidelines in mind and you’ll be sure to connect powerfully with your audience in a way that they understand and which motivates them to support your cause now.

Simplify and grow your fundraising

It honestly felt like using CauseVox expanded our team by another member.

    Easy-to-use Free to get started Cancel anytime
    Copy link
    Powered by Social Snap