Donor engagement and donor retention are constantly talked about, but rarely is the precursor touched upon: the establishment of trust. Many organizations attempt to gain this asset through a display of financial transparency. However, while financials are a well intentioned first step, the benefits of a unique and personal touch are not to be overlooked. Think of a friend that you trust whole heartedly. How has your relationship flourished to have been able to mature to its current depth? We hope it is not because of how thoroughly you’ve perused their financial statements! The experiences and collective memories of a mutually built relationship should come to mind when you envision the person you can always count on, and there’s chemistry behind this. Neuromarketing experts today are accrediting the synthesis of the hormone oxytocin for many of our logical and emotional behaviors such as trust and empathy.

Paul Zak, one of the founding directors of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies, has conducted research on oxytocin and its impact on moral responsiveness to stories and human experiences. In a study conducted on the hormone’s correlation to emotional motivators, Zak observed that donors gave almost 60% more when given synthetic oxytocin. Not only does oxytocin influence us to give more, we also feel better about doing so! Due to its highly measured influence on prosocial behaviors, it’s not surprising that oxytocin is a mammalian specific hormone. What might be surprising, is that we release oxytocin as we immerse ourselves in a good story. Hearing and sharing stories build human empathy and emotional motivators with positive correlation to the levels of this trust hormone our system releases.

Human history itself, was a series of stories passed down through generations before the technology and convenience of written records. Our brains are wired to positively respond and interact with well constructed stories. Your brand identity is too a history; it is the collective experiences and narrative of everyone involved, the voices of your beneficiaries, your staff, your board and your donors. Each of their voices has unique resonance with like minded individuals within a global network. Their outreach has limitless potential to develop to establish genuine connections. Do not solely rely on numbers to represent who you are. Gaining trust demands emotional engagement and attempting transparency by publishing your required financial reports may not be enough on its own to effectively portray yourself. While most donors simply will not bother to read through your 990 form, they are much more likely to read an impact based story, engage on social media with videos, photos, infographics etc. Humans just love stories! Tell yours well.

“The power of anecdote is so great that it has a momentum in and of itself. No matter how boring the facts are, you feel inherently as if you are on a train that has a destination.” -Ira Glass

The destination is your vision, your narrative–tickets to get there. Get everyone aboard!