11 powerful emotions to supercharge fundraising letters

December 13, 2010 by Dean Rieck · 5 Comments
Filed under: Psychology 

emotions for fundraising lettersTo some extent, all commercial copywriting is based on emotion.

Whether you’re writing marketing copy for a car, a mutual fund, or a can of cheese spread, emotions play a part in the decision-making process.

However, nothing relies on emotion quite so much as a fundraising letter. How people “feel” about the cause will determine how they respond to your appeals.

While we humans are capable of an infinite variety of emotions, there are a few basic ones that work well in fundraising appeal letters. Here are 11 of them:

Altruism — Whether people are truly altruistic or have self-serving motives for giving is often debated. The best approach is to assume altruistic motives and appeal to other motives subtly. Assume the best of people and you usually get it.

Anger — Some highly emotional issues can cause feelings of outrage. This is a powerful motivator, but a tricky one. If you decide to be angry in your letter, maintain your anger throughout. Don’t drop out of character and slip into fuzzy wuzzy language on page 2. Your appeal should be along the lines of “This is outrageous and we have to stop it!”

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The hidden motivators that make people buy stuff

April 19, 2010 by Dean Rieck · 5 Comments
Filed under: Psychology 

hidden buyer motivatorsIf you’re writing an ad to sell a new floor mop, the very first question you should ask yourself is “Why would someone want to buy a new floor mop?”

It seems like an easy question with an obvious answer: to get the floor clean. Right? Well, maybe. But it’s usually not that simple.

Sure, maybe I have a dirty floor. But why do I care if my floor is clean? Why is my old mop not good enough? Could it be that my neighbor’s floor looks nicer than mine and what I really want is to fit in? Keep up with my neighbor? Avoid embarrassment?

There are two levels in every buying decision. The first level is logical: I need a new mop because my old one isn’t doing the job as well. The second level is emotional: I’m embarrassed by the stubborn spots on my floor (or whatever my individual reason might be).

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Program your brain for writing success in 7 easy steps

February 22, 2010 by Dean Rieck · 6 Comments
Filed under: Psychology 

brain programming for successDid you ever wonder how some people can just sit down and joyously write for hours, while others struggle to crank out even a few paragraphs?

I’m not talking about writer’s block. I’m talking about what some people would call willpower, the willpower to write regularly, stick to writing schedules, and succeed.

But what is willpower? We tend to define “willpower” as energetic determination or inner strength. It’s as if we’re saying, some people can overcome their hurdles while others are just too weak. It’s a comment about character.

But hold on a minute. I think that’s unfair and inaccurate. In my opinion, some people are simply programmed for writing success while others lack that programming. So it’s really about learned behavior.

Those who can flip a switch in their brain and start writing aren’t overcoming anything or exercising great power of will, they simply enjoy writing. And that enjoyment comes from programming in their brain that gives them pleasure and satisfaction.

This makes a big difference in how you think about writing, because while it’s hard to change character, it’s much easier to change learned behavior. We’re simply talking about breaking old habits and forming new ones. Right?

So let’s drop the judgmental attitude, and concentrate on creating some positive habits that can lead to greater pleasure from writing and greater writing success in your life and career.

How? I thought you’d never ask. I just happen to have 7 suggestions.

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A copywriter’s guide to consumer psychology

January 11, 2010 by Dean Rieck · 1 Comment
Filed under: Psychology 

consumer psychologyCopywriting is less about writing than it is about psychology.

You can be a great writer, but if you know little about how people think, you won’t succeed as a copywriter. On the other hand, you can be only a fair writer, and if you have a deep understanding of the human mind, you could do very well as a copywriter.

People can be pretty hard to figure out sometimes. Even though I’m a lifelong student of human behavior, I still can’t figure out why the young bagger at the grocery puts two dozen cans in a single bag but just one bunch of celery in another.

So providing guidance on something as complicated as consumer psychology is a little tricky. But there are a few things I’ve learned over the years that shape the way I write copy when my job is to motivate, persuade, and sell.

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Are you satisficing? How people REALLY make decisions

October 30, 2009 by Dean Rieck · Comments Off
Filed under: Psychology 

Satisficing is a decision-making strategy.Every copywriter knows how people makes buying decisions.

Someone reads your copy. You pile on benefits and sales arguments. Fact by fact, people carefully evaluate the pros and cons of buying. If you present your information in just the right way, you will convince people to want and buy whatever widget you’re selling.


Boy do I have a surprise for you. Because that’s not at all how people make buying decisions. In fact, that’s not how people make any kind of decision.

Let me introduce you to “satisficing.”

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