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It’s Not Just the Words . . . It’s Your Reaction

Slice of PieI read with interest Lori Sturdevant’s opinion piece in the Strib about homelessness, bonding priorities and the size of the state of Minnesota’s bonding pie.

It appears that emotional reactions to just two little words may be blocking funding for some life-changing services at Catholic Charities’ Dorothy Day Center (and for other urgent projects).

What are the words?  One billion.

Sturdevant and others have written and talked at length about the artificial $1 billion bonding ceiling.  Logic tells us that $1 billion 20 years ago does not equal $1 billion today.  So why the limit?

We’ll it’s not about logic, it’s about emotion.  After all, can’t you just feel it in your gut that borrowing more than $1 billion is just too much (even if interest rates are at an all-time low)?

In a post earlier this year on MCF’s Philanthropy Potluck Blog (“Sparking Action: What to Say and How to Say It“), I wrote about some sage persuasive communications advice from Bradford Fitch, president of the Congressional Management Foundation:

” . . . most of us have a flawed perception of how our brains work: We think we make decisions by thinking and analyzing, but we really make decisions by seeing and feeling.”

So that makes me wonder . . . how might Catholic Charities and the dozens of other organizations in line for bonding appropriations reframe the conversation so we see it — and feel it — in a new light?  Certainly each one of their causes is worthy . . . and each has a multitude of stories that can instantly evoke a tear or a smile.  But how could they jointly negate visceral reactions to “$1 billion?”

In the waning days of this legislative session, I hope some astute policymakers and influencers in St. Paul can find the words that will arouse more positive feelings.  Then, maybe our legislators can see the way to increasing the size of the bonding pie . . . and leaders of our homeless shelters and other deserving projects won’t need to fight over the last slice.

Photo cc Pernilla Rydmark

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