Lately, I’ve been fascinated with how we humans are motivated to make decisions and are persuaded to act. I recently read Neuromarketing: Understanding the Buy Buttons in Your Customer's Brain by Patrick Renvoisé & Christophe Morin, an engrossing look at how human beings are hard wired to behave in specific ways, based on certain triggers. The book ins't only for business execs. It includes smart info we can use to stengthen our volunteer recruitment efforts.
They explain that our brains have developed over thousands of years of human evolution and have a concrete role in helping us survive as a species. Our behavior is often pre-programmed, partly because our grey matter simply cannot process all of the information coming at us each day. So, we react in stereotypical ways based on cues that tell us, in shorthand, what is going on in front of us.
Some scientists argue that because human brains are being bombarded more and more with information, this will continue to be the case, but in an even more pronounced way. So, learning how to work with our innate systems will become even more important in order to be heard above the din.
So, rather than guess what will appeal to potential volunteers, why not harness human nature and get it to work for you?
In Neuromarketing, Renvoisé and Morin explain that when persuading our fellow humans to make a decision to change behavior, we must speak to the “primitive” (or “old”) brain. Contrary to past theories, scientists have learned that it is this part of the brain -- the emotional part -- that actually processes information and then tells our rational side whether or not to act. And, this is all going on a subconscious level.
They identify the six triggers that wake up the primitive brain and get it to consider a decision. And, they argue that in order to persuade someone to act, you must tap at least one. You’ll find them below, with my thoughts on how to use them in your volunteer recruitment appeals.
How to Craft Volunteer Appeals that Tap What Really Motivates Us -- The Old Brain
- Centered on Self – The old brain is completely self-centered. Appeals that use the word “you” will be more effective. Also, answering the question “What can you do for me?” clearly and succinctly will help get attention.
- Clear Contrast – The old brain is sensitive to clear contrasts; in fact, it is always scanning our surroundings for disruptions to the norm. Create contrast to get attention by focusing on the reality of their involvement before or after, or by clearly communicating what makes your program unique by comparing your opportunity versus others that are available.
- Tangible Input – The old brain processes information very quickly, and if waylaid, will forward the info to the new brain which slows decisionmaking to a screeching halt. Communicate simple, concrete ideas and do away with any acronyms or jargon that will slow the brain processing.
- Beginning & Ending – The old brain conserves energy by focusing on beginnings and endings. Create a sense of anticipation (which also increases dopamine production and helps people remember) by previewing the intrinsic rewards the volunteer will gain from the experience and then by repeating them at the end of the appeal.
- Visual Stimuli – The optic nerve is forty times faster than the auditory nerve, and so it feeds info to the old brain much faster. Because of this, humans are hardwired to make decisions largely based on visual input. So, use photos and video liberally to tell your story.
- Emotion – The old brain is triggered by emotions. We remember events better when they are accompanied by strong feelings. So, make use of powerful stories of human transformation and change a central part of your communications.
[Note: If you want to see more info on how to use brain science to attract volunteers, click here my Power Point Slide Deck and Handout for my training “Using Brain Science to Make Your Volunteer Recruitment Appeals More Effective,” a recent webinar I presented for The Aging Network’s Volunteer Collaborative (scroll down to the bottom of the web page for the document links).]