Once upon a time, the story says, there once was a girl named Pandora.
On her wedding day, the mighty God Zeus gave her a beautiful box as a gift. The box came with a note, which said: “DO NOT OPEN.” Attached to the note was the key to the box.
“Why would Zeus give me the key to a box he did not want me to open?” wondered Pandora. All she could think about was the contents of the box. What wonderful, mysterious thing had Zeus given to her? Jewels? Gold? Wanting to know what was inside consumed Pandora.
Well, as you can guess, curiosity got the better of her and she opened the box. When she lifted the lid, out came every evil things in the world today – envy, sickness, hate, disease. Pandora tried to stop it – she slammed the lid shut, but it was too late.
Pandora began to weep. What had she done? Why did she open the box? She wished she could go back and undo her terrible mistake.
Then Pandora heard a voice, soft and quiet and gentle. It was begging Pandora to let it out.
Pandora opened the lid once more.
There was something small at the very bottom of the box that Pandora had not yet released – hope. Pandora let hope out, releasing it into the world. And, as the story says, everywhere the evil things went, hope went too. All that was touched by evil – so too was touched by hope.
And hope made all the difference in the world.
Ok fundraisers, there is a moral for us in this story.
What I love about this piece of mythology is how beautifully it illustrates this concept: emotions are most powerful when they work in pairs. The moment when hope is released from the box always gives me chills – but I doubt the story would have had the same effect if hope was the only thing in the box. Introducing hope at the end of the story is made all the more powerful in contrast to envy, sickness, hate and disease – which Pandora had already released.
I hope that by now, you have heard this message: in order to inspire giving – we need to use emotions in our communications with donors. Emotions are incredibly powerful. Emotions are one of the best tools a fundraiser has. If you aren’t triggering emotions and making your donor feel something, you might be in the wrong business.
The lesson from Pandora’s story is this: emotional triggers are even more powerful when they are contrasted and paired together. Like a good mixed drink, emotions are strongest when you combine different ones together. Tom Ahern* calls this the “emotional twin set” – when you put together two powerful emotional triggers: one negative: fear, anger, disgust – and one positive: hope, optimism, compassion.
Like the sadness you feel when seeing a child in need, and the hope you have when you realise you can make a difference (then – the happiness you feel for helping, and the sadness of knowing more children still need help).
When communicating with a donor – you need to always be asking yourself “How do I want the person reading this to feel” – if your answer only contains one emotional trigger, you aren’t there yet.
So – are you contrasting the light and the dark? The good, and the bad? We need to use all the tools at our disposal to solve the problems of the world that were released from Pandora’s box.
*If you haven’t bought and read Tom’s book “How to Write Fundraising Materials that Raise More Money” – go do it now. Seriously. You will raise more money.
What a beautifully written post!!
This got me thinking immediately about all of the times I have felt inspired to give, and of course each time your message was true. Frustration, Anger, Sadness, but all were tempered by the idea that I could actually contribute to a solution or change with giving.
The best part of this, is how you illustrated your point with a powerful, simple and relatable story.
Thank you Rory!
This got me thinking. Very insightful. Then I read it was written from Rory…of course, thanks for reminding us (fundraisers) how we can always be more impactful. Great tip from Tom Ahern re: emotional twin set. He’s an effective communicator. His book sounds like a great tool in any fundraiser’s tool kit.
Response from Rory:
Another great book from Tom is “Keep Your Donors” – which he wrote with Simone Joyaux. It is the ultimate resource on resource development – and it also covers the “emotional twin set” topic.
Thanks so much for this great post Rory. This will be so helpful to fundraisers – I will Tweet straight away! I work with nonprofits in Australia around storytelling – and I always emphasise how important emotional engagement is in stories if donors are going to care about your cause. It helps them to not only understand the cause but also to feel it. Pairing emotions is a great idea – and you illustrated the point with a story! – further proof that it works.. thanks again.
Response from Rory:
Thank you Maria!
One of the best examples of this I have ever seen is this: Blood Relations – The Israeli Palestinian Blood Donation Project http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3GZxLcGSCow
It begins with heartbreaking stories of people who have lost loved ones, and then ends with a sucker punch of hope compassion and love.