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Brain Science

The Brain Science behind Giving



Humans are inherently empathetic. Our brains are hardwired to relate to other people’s experiences. When we witness or imagine someone acting, our neurons fire the same way they would if we were undertaking the same action.

That’s why your heart races when your favorite athlete soars toward the basket or why the sight of a mother struggling to save her child from floodwaters causes you pain.

While our hearts translate empathy into helping another person, our brains have another reaction: We’re rewarded with happy feelings, thanks to a dopamine dose to our brain’s pleasure center.

If empathy is a preexisting human condition, and if it feels good to do good, then it should be easy-peasy to be a cause marketer. Take your product, slap on a pink ribbon, and watch people act.

Guess what? It’s not that easy.

Empathy is not enough. To compel people to act on their empathetic impulses, you have to appeal to them in a certain way. Fortunately, a wealth of new research informs that effort. We understand more than ever how people think—and that means we have a better chance of inspiring them to act.

That’s the essence of The Brainiac’s Guide to Cause Marketing, where we explore how people’s minds really work, and what that means for your next campaign. By getting how people think, we can get them to do.

Here are the main takeaways, which you can explore in the eGuide:

1) Emotion trumps thinking – People support causes because they feel something, not because they think something.

2) Personal appeals always win over data plays – Numbers and stats are less effective than heartfelt stories.

3) Demonstrating tangible impact is key – Consumers are skeptical and need reassurance that your company’s cause is effective.

4)  Peer pressure rules – It’s the best way to encourage good behavior.

5) Choice in charity increases donation amounts – People want to connect with the causes closest to their hearts.

Download The Brainiac’s Guide to Cause Marketing here.

Katya Andresen is Chief Strategy Officer of Network for Good, as well as a speaker, author and blogger about nonprofit marketing, online outreach, social media and fundraising. 

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