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Alan Clayton, Director, Clayton Burnett Ltd.

If it doesn’t, I’m leaving.

Human emotions are complicated and infinite in their variety and combinations. I was asked recently by a journalist ‘Does guilt have a place in fundraising?’ I asked her, ‘please define guilt.’ When she failed to do so, I politely declined the interview. Of course guilt has a place in fundraising as does every emotion that anyone is capable of experiencing and transmitting.

‘Guilt’ is only a hair’s breadth away from ‘pity,’ which in itself is only a razor’s width away from ‘compassion.’ Only a judgmental fool would try and define the difference and preach to us which of our emotions is acceptable and which is not. What I feel as guilt, you may feel as compassion and someone else may feel as religious duty. We are all right.

live-laugh-loveFor fundraising to succeed, and for donors to have the experience of it they deserve, a gamut of emotions is involved. The donor journey is a repeating loop of:

• ‘Reward’ emotion.

• ‘Need’ emotion.

• (rational pause to check out the facts.)

• Gift.

The power of the need emotion is the cause of much controversy, of course. It’s a debate we should have widely in our sector. I look forward to it.

But here’s the rub: for great, long-term fundraising to prosper, the reward emotion must increase in intensity with the number of gifts and donor longevity. There are many reward emotions: determination, belonging, pride, contentment, gratitude, exhilaration, inspiration… to name but a few.

two-buddhist-monks-laughingMy personal favourite by far is humour. Over the last year I have worked with major donor groups in depression (people killing themselves), MS (people dying very slowly and painfully) and acquired blindness (people losing their sight). The donors have all been people suffering (yes – suffering) from these conditions or having seen the suffering of their close relatives. As we have progressed projects and raised money we have cried, despaired and knuckled down but we have done more of something else I would scarcely have imagined – we’ve laughed. Laughed a lot – sometimes hysterically, sometimes poignantly, sometimes darkly. But always together.

Life really does not get much better than having a great big belly laugh with a group of people with whom you have become close through facing the darkness together. It is one of the greatest rewards and therefore has a place front and centre in our fundraising toolbox.

I am greatly looking forward to working with you all on the wonderful subject of human emotion at this year’s Congress from November 18-20. While preparing, I just looked back at feedback from the last time I was in Toronto. Thank you so much for the hundreds of encouraging comments, they are hugely appreciated. But to the one person that wrote ‘too many jokes, needs to be more serious’ I say ‘sorry pal, no can do’ or words to that effect. He must have been a British ex-pat.

Alan is a Director of Clayton Burnett Ltd., Chairman of coaching firm Revolutionise Global, Chairman of the Grove Practice and Managing Partner at the Inch Hotel and Inspiration Centre, Loch Ness, Scotland. He has worked with over 250 nonprofit clients in the UK and around the world. His specialisms are creative strategy, donor insight and motivation and he has published much original research and theory. He will be presenting sessions on Emotional Fundraising at Congress 2013.


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