There’s nothing like emotion for getting action

in Copywriting - Nonprofit

Nothing motivates like emotion. Nothing inspires like emotion. Nothing triggers action like emotion.

Emotion in Nonprofit CopywritingTherefore put emotion in your nonprofit copywriting for higher response.

I could end my post with those four statements. I’ve made my point. Nonetheless I will go into a bit more detail.

WHY emotion it is essential

Simply stated: Humans can’t make decisions without emotion.

Don’t believe me?

I come from an engineering background, including much of my work experience and all of my formal education. I’m very logical and analytical. Yet me – like every other human being on our planet – makes decisions based on emotion. We then justify our decisions with logic.

That’s a fact you can take to the bank. It matters not whether you’re making a donation, buying a toothbrush, or deciding where to book your next vacation.

If you don’t have emotions – you’ll struggle to make a decision.

Studies on people who suffered brain damage from a tumor or a stroke reveal: If that part of their brain that deals with emotions was damaged … they can take 20-30 minutes trying to decide what restaurant to eat at, what to wear in the morning, if they can decide at all.

Test these same people for IQ, motor skills, language skills, and learning ability… all are fine. But they can’t make a decision because they’ve lost the connection with their emotions. (Antonio Damasio and his research in neuroscience brought this to light in the mid-nineties.)

Intelligent decision making is impossible without emotion because emotion is what marks the value and draws you to X or Y. Once you’ve made this first step, then use knowledge and logic to literally test whether or not what you’re trying to decide makes sense.

So in your copy you want to trigger an emotion so your readers FEEL something. And so they can decide to donate or to join.

This is also why story-telling is so important. By telling a story … painting a picture … you cause people to recall experiences all of which have an emotion and feelings tied to them. It’s powerful. And it guides them on how to respond.

How much emotion?

The deeper the emotion, the more firepower it delivers.

As a friend of mine says, “People don’t run into burning buildings for money, they do it for love [to save someone they care about]. People don’t donate organs for status; they do it for significance [to help someone have a second chance at life].”

Nonetheless the lament often heard is: Our nonprofit doesn’t help children, or people who are sick, the poor or uneducated. No neglected animals or endangered species to pull at heart strings. How can we possibly use emotion?

It is possible to add emotion in your copy – regardless of the mission. I’ve done it numerous times. It’s just that the emotion within the copy isn’t always intense. That’s fine. Many missions aren’t suited for triggering deep emotions.

The point is that emotions have varying degrees of intensity. Use the intensity appropriate for your mission.

Speaking of intensity … In the list of positive emotions below, we go from mild to intense (i.e., from amused to ecstatic).

ecstatic and elated, bursting with jubilation



amused and content

Therefore even though your foundation or association, for example, may not have a heart-string mission … you can still add emotion to your copy for higher response.

Remember, we can’t make an intelligent decision without emotion. You may be in the content or happy range because your mission may not lend itself to intense emotion. But you still must tap into something.

Nothing triggers action like emotion. Nothing triggers higher response like emotion can.

Related posts:

How to make nonprofit copy – and stories – come alive with emotion

Emotion is the prime driver … How “aspiration” benefits your nonprofit

How science helps you write better fundraising stories


Photo credit: Carlos-Smith via

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