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Non-profits: Did you know NOT donating can cause physical and psychological pain?

A couple of years ago a chance to teach a workshop on how to create an 8-Step Communications Matrix and I also gave a brief introduction to email marketing. Most of the people in the audience worked for non-profits, and so they're obviously focused on getting donations rather than sell. And (it never fails) there was one person in the audience totally against consistently sending out emails asking for donations. ...Even though she said that she checks her own email accounts several times a day, ...Even though she hates using social media even more than email, ...Even though her organization could use the money, She admitted that her main reason for being against email is that she feels annoyed with all the emails that she gets and spends a lot of time unsubscribing from things. But hey, that just means that with email your readers have all the power.

They decide whether or not to sign up for your list, whether to read your emails and whether or not to stay on the list. They can unsubscribe any time. What could be more fair? Since the reader has all the power and can choose to open it or delete your emails, it's up to you to make it worth their time. It's up to you to not be boring and actually move people to donate. But how do you get away with sending frequent emails where all you're doing is asking for money? I'm going to let you in on a secret that might help you feel more comfortable pressing the send button on your fundraising emails. Not donating can be psychologically and physically painful. "What?" you may be asking. "It's impossible to get these local tightwads to part with their precious money. How can you say it's painful not to donate?" Here's why. According to Richard M. Perloff in his book, The Dynamics of Persuasion, "People have an overarching need for consistency and balance." If they said they "care" but haven't donated that's inconsistent and will cause cognitive dissonance. The cognitive dissonance theory was developed by Leon Festinger in 1957 and is still very relevant. The formal definition is "a negative, unpleasant state that occurs whenever a person has two cognitions that are psychologically inconsistent." Cognitive dissonance is psychologically and physically painful and people will want to do something to make that feeling go away. Here is why that relates to your email subscribers.

If people have signed up for your list, they are declaring to you and to themselves that they believe in your organization, they care, and they want to support you in your efforts to make the world a better place.

Awesome, right? But if they've made that declaration and haven't acted on it, they will be in a state of cognitive dissonance.

They're saying, "I care" and "I won't help" at the same time. That doesn't sit well with most people. All they have to do to make that feeling go away is to put their money where their mouth is. And you give them the opportunity to do that when you ask them to donate or to volunteer. They said that they want to help. You should feel confident asking for them to do what they said they would do. If they don't respond today, don't worry about it. Maybe their rent's due, who knows? But that doesn't mean they won't give tomorrow or the next day. If you need help coming up with ideas for your emails, want me to write them for you, or need a landing page that you can use to collect emails, send me a note at

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