Brain scans reveal what motivates charitable bequests

Research now shows that a donor’s sense of mortality and her own personal experiences help trigger charitable bequests.

Consultant Michael Rosen blogged today about a Texas Tech University study of brain scans that found evidence of what motivates these charitable impulses.

“We now have scientific evidence suggesting the importance of being donor centered,” Rosen wrote. “The study reveals that it is a donor’s own story that matters most to the donor. Therefore, fundraisers should first focus on the donor’s story, his sense of self, his desired legacy, the things that are important to him. Then, the fundraiser can relate the organization’s mission and needs back to the donor’s story. Fundraisers who do this are most likely to achieve the best results.

“Making a charitable bequest decision involves the internal visualization system, specifically those parts of the brain engaged for recalling autobiographical events, including the recent death of a loved one. Charitable bequest decision-making engages parts of the brain associated with what researchers call ‘management of death salience.’ In other words–and not surprisingly–charitable bequest decision-making involves reminders of one’s mortality.”

Rosen draws these conclusions for the benefit of fundraising professionals:

  • “Focus on the donor’s story.
  • “Match the organization’s mission and needs with the donor’s autobiographical sense.
  • “Establish artificial deadlines and urgency to overcome a prospect’s natural avoidance tendencies.
  • “Suggest giving opportunities that provide some type of lasting memorial to the donor and assure the donor of the organization’s long-term stability.”
This entry was posted in bequest giving, charitable intent, donors, fundraising, philanthropy, planned giving, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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