Emotional Connection Inspires Philanthropy

Advancement insights in brief from EdwardsCo

It’s true that donors need a rational justification for giving.  Yet, they aren’t open to hearing the case for support unless they feel a deep, emotional connection to the cause, organization, or institution.

A campaign launch event explicitly designed to establish an emotional connection presents perhaps the greatest opportunity for an institution to inspire giving.

Case in Point – Harvard Business School

When Harvard Business School (HBS) first approached EdwardsCo to create a campaign launch event, they had planned a very traditional evening – a dinner, with speeches by the dean and star faculty.

The institution understood, however, that alumni were questioning the value of giving to HBS. Many wondered, “Do they really need more money?”

HBS knew it had to do something different to create a sense of urgency while still addressing underlying concerns about the impact of a donation to the school.

Through a set of intensive listening sessions with donors to understand how to motivate support, EdwardsCo discovered that alumni liked their ongoing connection with HBS faculty. They also believed strongly in the dean and the school’s mission.

Those ties, however, did not offer a compelling reason to donate to what would be the school’s first full-fledged capital campaign.

Alumni instead felt most motivated to support the school due to their profound sense that they had the chance to make a positive difference in the world. They believed they had this chance because of what HBS had taught them, their association with HBS, and HBS’s unparalleled influence.

In turn, they felt inspired by the opportunity to have a tangible impact, not by speeches from faculty and administration.

As a result, planning for the launch event centered on a single, provocative question: Who benefits from the education and training provided at HBS?

This question and the stories presented in answer became the emotional trigger for action. The stories established an emotional connection with the donors’ deep-seated desire to make a positive difference in the world and made the case for how an investment in HBS would fulfill this desire through a multiplier effect.

« Back to Resources
Back to Top