An emotional connection

27 February 2015

Leaving a legacy in your will is a very emotive act and after producing several legacy fundraising videos, we understand that successful legacy engagement is about connecting emotionally on a personal level. If charities can build an emotional connection with donors, they are able to more easily communicate the difference a legacy gift can make.

Legacies are a vital income stream for charities to continue their invaluable work and most charities are creating campaigns to show the impact of legacy gifts on their work and encourage more legacy donations.

New research is changing the way charities focus their legacy message. Dr Russell James’ ground-breaking research on planned giving and the brain found that emotion (as opposed to information) is the key to deciding to make a charitable legacy.

Dr James identified that legacy giving is connected to the autobiographical area of the brain thus a donor’s experiences, values and emotions are critical to the legacy process. Successful legacy communications therefore need to connect emotionally in a meaningful way.

Visual storytelling is an essential messaging tool for waking the limbic system where emotions reside in your brain.  Stories connect emotionally with us in a way that information and statistics don’t. Stories inspire, engage and connect on an emotional level and have been found to be a very effective way to motivate supporters to leave a legacy.

The emotional connection between a donor and a charity often springs from shared values and beliefs. Stories about injustice, poverty & discrimination can stir people to leave a legacy and faith-based charity campaigns often focus on the desire to follow God’s calling. Successful faith-based legacy communications often demonstrate that a donor’s faith and values live on through their gift.

It’s often a challenge for charities to balance the need to ask for legacy gifts whilst being sensitive with the subject matter.  Charities are therefore increasingly recognising the importance of specific targeted campaigns and the power of video to connect more on a personal level.

Video is a personal medium; an engaging and inspiring video gives a sense that you’re being spoken to individually. An inspiring fundraising video which personally moves and connects will engage donors and motivate support.

One way to connect emotionally with supporters whilst showing the difference a legacy gift can make, is to see the charity’s work through the donor/donor family’s eyes. Some of the legacy videos we’ve produced capture the personal journey of lay executors visiting charity projects to see how the legacy left by a family member is making a difference.

A donor journey film is highly personalised and connects the viewer directly with the need – he or she sees the difference a legacy donation can make.

When emotional stories are used with integrity alongside rational evidence in a fundraising appeal, they are likely to generate a positive response. It is this mix of emotions and reason continually expressed in fresh and creative ways that will help a charity to build stronger relationships with supporters and drive legacy giving.

Kate Topping, business manager at Purple Flame Media

Find out more about Russell James’ research in our November blog.