Heartstrings, Quantified

Compelling narrative motivates generous response — maybe even more generous than you’d expect.  Organizations – especially nonprofits — typically describe their programs instead of the difference they make. But the messaging that really makes a difference shows how real people benefit from those programs.

In this New York Times magazine profile, Wharton professor Adam Grant comes across as a compulsively generous guy who has fueled his professional advancement with a mixture of altruism and wisdom.

The brilliance of his ongoing psychological research goes beyond calibrating generosity to help others while stoking your own sense of satisfaction and self-worth. Grant’s research also exposes what truly motivates people at work: a mission that actually makes a measurable difference.

When people see that their work genuinely improves someone else’s life or situation, they are deeply moved to strive for similar results.  They are both more productive and more satisfied with their work. Because their work means something.

We got at this dynamic in the 2012 Accounting MOVE Project, which showed how community service advances women’s careers in accounting. Women who merged volunteering aligned with strongly held personal values, with professional development, not only created their own fast tracks for advancement. They also reinforced the core meaning of their work, making for a fulfilling balance.

When you want to deeply motivate your audience — from potential donors to partners, even to clients — let narratives and case studies do the persuading.