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How To Boost Your Fundraising With Philanthropic Psychology

All You Need Is Love

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Picture this: It’s June 25, 1967.

The Beatles are about to do something that’s never been done before. The whole world (25 countries, to be exact) is watching as they perform live on the first-ever global satellite TV broadcast. Their song? “All You Need Is Love.”

Its simple yet profound message became an instant hit and an anthem for the counter-culture movement.

John Lennon explained the dual meaning of the song: “At one level, it means that love is the most important thing in the world, but it can also mean that love is the one thing you are lacking, the one thing you haven’t got.”

John was spot on. Love is the most important thing in the world, and it’s also the one thing your fundraising might be missing.

So, how can you transform your fundraising with love? Two words: philanthropic psychology.

Philanthropic psychology is the science of how people love themselves and others. If I feel great about who I am when I give, I’ll give again. And again. And I’ll give more. Humans are wired to seek out pleasurable experiences. When we find them, we want to repeat them.

Jen Shang founded Phil Psych® and holds the world’s first PhD in Philanthropy. She’s also the world’s only philanthropic psychologist. Jen co-founded The Institute for Sustainable Philanthropy, which aims to grow the human capacity to love.

Jen believes every donation can grow the human capacity to love. She teaches Phil Psych® courses and uses science to create more memorable giving experiences that genuinely contribute to the well-being of supporters.

What does Phil Psych® look like in practice?

I had the pleasure of presenting at AFP ICON 2024 with two of my favorite copywriters, Julie Cooper and Sarah Masterson. Each of us has earned our certificates in philanthropic psychology with distinction. During our session, we shared several examples of philanthropic psychology, which you can register to watch live on July 31.

Traditional fundraising focuses on what the donor’s gift will do, as in: “You can shine the light of hope.” Philanthropic psychology speaks to who the donor is and lets them reflect on who they are, as in, “You are the light of hope.”

In philanthropic psychology, you make the donors feel the goodness of what they do AND the goodness of who they are. You’re connecting the kindness inside of the donor with the good they brought about.

To quote Julie’s copywriting partner, Brett Cooper: “Your communications are a place, and that place has a vibe, and the vibe is that warm feeling of a donor’s worth and goodness.”

To implement philanthropic psychology into your fundraising communications, use words that speak to who your donors are when they give. Make the act of giving to your organization an expression of your donor’s best self.

Ask yourself:

  1. Have I discovered our donor’s best self?
  2. Have I amplified their best self in my copy?
  3. Can they see their best self in the support they offer to beneficiaries?
  4. Is every word in my fundraising copy helping me to achieve these goals?

How much more money does it raise?

The British Columbia SPCA adopted philanthropic principles in its fundraising in 2022 and compared those results to 2018. The results? They dramatically grew (in parallel with other growth initiatives) their donor base by 32%, monthly donors by 22%, and direct response revenue by 79%.

Why does it raise more money?

At its core, it primes the donor’s identity. It could be their:

  • Personal identity, “For you and I, saving animals is a calling.”
  • Group identity, “When you become a Purrfect Friend, you join a special group of animal lovers changing the world for abandoned cats.”
  • Moral identity, “Your compassion can rescue abandoned kittens from certain death.”

Philanthropic psychology distinguishes the good feelings we, as donors, get from what we do from the good feelings we get from who we are.

Digging in a little deeper, Dr. Shang shares that the three critical components of psychological well-being are autonomy, competence, and connection.

Phil Psych®-based fundraising copywriting leverages each of them to help donors:

  1. Feel “seen” for the very best person they are (and will be) through their giving. This is autonomy—acting on your own initiative. Autonomy is the ability to choose your best self and take actions that represent your ideals, like giving.
  2. Feel “efficient and effective” in making the world a better place. This is competence.
  3. Feel connected to something bigger than themselves.

John Lennon was right: all you need is love.

Now that you’ve been introduced to philanthropic psychology, I challenge you to use it to speak to your donors in a way that celebrates who they are.

Want a little help? I’ve got great news! I’m teaming up with my fundraising copywriting besties Julie Cooper and Sarah Masterson to present our highly acclaimed top-rated copywriting session at AFP ICON in a free webinar on Wednesday, July 31st, at 12 noon CST/ 1 pm EST.

Interested in getting your certificate in Philanthropic Psychology? Learn more about Jen Shang, PhD, and her programs here.

Register for the webinar now because this session will fill up!

Here’s that link again to register

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