You don’t really have that much empathy

Seth talks about the downside of empathy — or rather thinking you have it when you don’t.



Being certain about how someone else feels or what motivates them is foolish. Don’t declare that you know exactly why someone made a choice or predict what someone is going to do next, and why…. you’re probably going to be wrong.

Fundraisers do this all the time, making wild assumptions about how donors feel. Like this:


Donors are so ticked off by the large amount of mail we send, they’re lapsing at higher rates than ever.


Maybe it’s not the frequency of your mail. Maybe it’s that your messages are dull and irrelevant. Maybe you aren’t sending enough mail. You simply don’t know how they feel. Your false claim of empathy will lead you to make possibly disastrous decisions, solving the wrong problem.


Even worse, we often project our feelings onto our donors. As in, I hate (or love) this message. That’s exactly how other people are going to feel.


Not necessarily. In fact, your feelings about fundraising messages are likely a good counter-indicator of how your donors will feel.


The point is, you don’t have enough empathy to accurately predict how donors feel about things. It’s far better to gather facts about their behavior — and act accordingly.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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About the blogger

Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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