How Neuromarketing can Help Strengthen the Non-­‐ profit Sector: An Eye-­‐tracking Study of Emotional Appeals in Fundraising Communications

Thea Bergerud

Student thesis: Master thesis


The following research explores the use of emotional appeals in fundraising communication and if these appeals can lead to a subsequent donation. Charitable and non-profit organizations all over the world, especially the organizations focusing on children’s rights, all dwell on the same communicative issue when it comes to raising funds: do people donate money because we communicate suffering or because we communicate the proof of our work (the ‘solution’)? Donor communication tend to trigger our emotions, however it seems that there is little knowledge among nonprofits in general as to which type of emotional appeals that elicit the strongest reactions - negative or positive? Based on a deductive approach to research, it was hypothesized that exposure to a fundraising advertisement with positive emotional appeals would have a positive effect on donation behavior, and that repeated exposure to a recently presented fundraising advertisement with positive appeals would have a positive effect on donation behavior. Two hypotheses furthermore claimed that pupil dilation would indicate increased positive emotional arousal in the respondents. The studies were conducted using an eye-tracker procedure. Respondents (N = 80) were divided into four groups (á 20 respondents per group) and were exposed to different parts of a fundraising advertisement communicated by SOS Children’s Villages accordingly. The fundraising advertisement(s) was disguised by ten regular TV commercials to avoid exposing the purpose of the experiment beforehand. One-way ANOVAs, two- sample T-test, and a Generalized Linear Model were run, and all four hypotheses were rejected as the results showed that negative, and not positive emotional appeals had a significant effect on pupil dilation and on the subsequent donation behavior. Results also proved that the mean response time for deciding upon donation was shorter for the respondents who were exposed to negative emotional appeals, suggesting an “easier” decision-making process compared to the respondents exposed to positive emotional appeals. Conclusively, the research suggests managerial implications in terms of changing the focus of SOS Children’s Villages’ fundraising communication to appeal more to the “need” and less to the “solution” when communicating for a charitable cause. Finally, further research in relation to testing the effects of storytelling on emotional arousal and donation behavior is proposed

EducationsMSc in Brand and Communications Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2013
Number of pages92