Personality and Emotion Words
June 7, 2023
Kevin Schulman, Founder, DonorVoice and DVCanvass
Make it emotional is one of my favorite, paper-thin, directives from the department of shallow fundraising thoughts. Which emotion exactly? A positive one, negative, both?
This also glosses over the fact that emotion doesn’t cause behavior, it’s the goal. Is my aim to make you feel sad or angry at some crappy or unfair situation?
I don’t give because you make me sad or angry, I give to change those negative emotions, to feel better, happier, prouder, more satisfied, etc. The giving behavior is motivated by my goal, which is to change the sad or angry state, to resolve it to a better place for me.
Maybe making me sad or angry is useful but if so, only as a first and insufficient step. But let’s start here, invoking an emotion. What do we know?
Negative and positive emotions beat neutral. “Let’s storm the bastille” said no middle of the road donor, ever. And emotion words are easier to mentally process, which is a win, as ye-tracking studies show we move more quickly through emotion words than neutral ones.
But do negative and positive emotions work equally on everyone? Seems unlikely.
People who are high in trait Agreeableness are hard-wired to help others. You have a lot of them on your donor file and your acquisition efforts. We can tag your file so you know who’s in this camp and aim your acquisition to message differently to different people.
But how might messaging emotion differently look? People high in Agreeableness are drawn in by positive language and spend more time looking at the words coming after a positive emotion word (e.g. happy, joyful proud).
Knowing this, here are a few more suggestions:
- Lead with positivity: Start your appeal by evoking positive emotions. You don’t need to start or even go negative at all.
- Use positive words before key points: Use positive emotion words as lead-in to the impact message.
- Incorporate affirming language: Agreeable people value cooperation and harmony, use language affirming their role in the collective effort. This could be as simple as stating “Together, we can make a difference”.
But don’t do this for everyone, it won’t work. This guidance is matched to trait because people are different. Want to see more examples and learn more?
Join our learning session on the why and how of Tailoring Message to Match Personality
Wednesday, June 21st at 11am. Sign up here
P.S. And if you’re interested, you can measure yourself on the Personality Big Five to see your Agreeableness score.