Who cares about large numbers?

Here’s an error a lot of us make: Making large numbers the heart of a fundraising ask.


In this case the Who Cares Campaign (raising funds to increase the number of medical professionals in Tanzania) builds the entire case on the facts that Tanzania is badly undersupplied with medical professionals:


Whocaresweb

When you throw a bunch of numbers out, you require you audience to build the connection between the numbers and their human impact. That seldom works, because:



  1. Most people don’t have the personal experience to make the connection between the abstraction of large numbers and the human impact.
  2. Even when they can make the connection, they don’t go to the trouble.

But it’s even worse than that. The larger the number, the less compassion it stirs. That’s not logical. It’s not even fair. It’s just the way the human mind works. Ignoring that is like constructing a building while ignoring gravity. Doesn’t work.


I’m no expert on the subject, but I’ll make some guesses about the situation in Tanzania that the Who Cares Campaign aims to change:



  • People are dying needlessly, pointlessly, of things like treatable infections.
  • Mothers are dying in childbirth, and/or their babies are dying.
  • Young children and the elderly are the ones who suffer most.
  • Outbreaks of easily treatable diseases can spread uncontrollably in underserved areas, causing preventable suffering and death.

Those are the stories they need to tell if they want a lot of people to join the cause.


Comments

2 responses to “Who cares about large numbers?”

  1. Hi Jeff- Loved this story.I think it’s about both storytelling and unattainable goals: people give to a good story and one where they think they’ll make a difference. 90,0000 sure does seem unattainable, but if it were broken down into smaller steps like “2,000 new doctors this year,” it might seem more attainable and thus invite heavier participation.
    I think it speaks to all unreachable goals. When we climb a mountain, we think about what we’re going to see on the way, measure the kilometers and cross them off at each pass, and finally, when the top is in sight, consider whether or not to take a break or sprint to the top. It’s the same way with ambitious goals.

  2. Hi Jeff- Loved this story.I think it’s about both storytelling and unattainable goals: people give to a good story and one where they think they’ll make a difference. 90,0000 sure does seem unattainable, but if it were broken down into smaller steps like “2,000 new doctors this year,” it might seem more attainable and thus invite heavier participation.
    I think it speaks to all unreachable goals. When we climb a mountain, we think about what we’re going to see on the way, measure the kilometers and cross them off at each pass, and finally, when the top is in sight, consider whether or not to take a break or sprint to the top. It’s the same way with ambitious goals.

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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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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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