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Using Neuromarketing to Improve Your Fundraising Results

Using Neuromarketing to Improve Your Fundraising Results

There are more than 1.5 million tax exempt nonprofit organizations in the United States. When it comes to fundraising, nonprofits must compete with all these other organizations, all vying for customer attention and donations. What if nonprofits could tap into a secret language that lets them engage better with prospects, speaking directly to their motivations and encouraging them to make a contribution to the organization?

This is where neuromarketing comes into play. Neuromarketing uses the information learned from neuroscience and psychology to better understand consumer behaviors and motivations, thus making it easier for organizations to present a strong case for their brands and their causes. Scientists and marketers work together to use technology, such as fMRI and EEG, to see clearly how people’s brains respond to messages. The machines let them measure instinctual emotions, which is more accurate than self-reported responses. Nonprofits can then use these insights to guide their advertising so they activate the desirable parts of the brain.

Why does neuromarketing work?

Although people generally like to think that the decisions they make are completely logical and done through careful thought, shockingly, as many as 95 percent of the decisions people make are unconscious. The human brain has evolved to masterfully calculate risk versus reward and many decisions are based on how the brain views a particular choice along this spectrum.

Neuromarketing helps nonprofits uncover the decision-making process of target audiences so they can use the right language and tap into the motivations that will encourage prospects to respond to an appeal.

Strategies of neuromarketing to employ

There are three main factors that are essential to building a donor base through neuromarketing.

  1. The cause must be viewed by the audience as legitimate. Anything that detracts from the reputation of the organization or the cause could jeopardize this point. Donors want clear explanations about where the money is going. Any questions asked should be directly applicable to the cause– unnecessary form lines can easily scare people away.
  2. The cause should be personal for the audience. Let them feel as though they are connected to the goals the group wants to accomplish. They should feel as though their contributions make a genuine difference for the cause.
  3. The cause and the campaign also need to be relevant. Once the cause has been shown as legitimate and the relationship with the donor base has been established, the campaigns should then build on this relationship.


When it comes to fundraising for nonprofits, organizations should consider the rewards they offer to their leads. The rewards might come in the form of pictures portraying how their donations have been used, invitations to special donor clubs, or unique opportunities to participate in events, for example. Offering the reward helps to speak to the part of the brain calculating reward versus cost. When the brain sees a desirable reward, it helps to tip the scales in favor of making a donation.

Time limits

Time limits can also be a valuable means of triggering the brain. By letting the prospects know that the goal desired must be accomplished within a particular timeframe, nonprofits can increase the cost of not participating. The sense of urgency motivates people to make their donation right away, rather than putting the letter or email to the side, and thus potentially forgetting about it.

Donor focused messaging

While it might seem counterintuitive, messaging should be donor centric, rather than charity centric. Instead of focusing on what the organization accomplishes, explore what the donor’s help has empowered the group achieve. Frame the language to put your donor at the center, enhancing their reward by letting them see themselves as a critical part of the nonprofit.

Put neuromarketing to work

Neuromarketing can be a powerful tool for nonprofits, so remember these key points:

  • Make sure prospects view the cause and the organization as legitimate, personal, and relevant
  • Incorporate rewards to make a donation more appealing to the brain
  • Use time limits occasionally to create a sense of urgency
  • Write donor-centric messaging so that the prospect sees themselves as a critical part of the organization.

Organizations interested in learning more about how neuromarketing can help should reach out to the expert marketers at Ballantine. With decades of experience, we will help send the right message to the prospective donors and enhance the success of the campaign.

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I'm the Director of Digital Services and Partner at Ballantine, a family-owned and operated direct mail & digital marketing company based in New Jersey. and started in 1966 by my great uncle!