Why using statistics will kill your fundraising

Fundraising Coach says Throw statistics out of your fundraising letters!

Really? Throw them out?

Well, yes:.

… studies are consistently showing that when it comes to fundraising, logic kills donations. Worse still, the evidence shows that we can’t mix emotion and logic. Telling an emotional story and throwing in even one calculation or statistic can have devastating results on your fundraising.

This is hard to believe, because in our professional lives, we strive to make decisions based on facts and statistics. Actually, that’s largely an illusion. We think we make our decisions on facts. Mostly, our hearts drive us. Then we seek facts that back us up.

Remember, donors don’t give to solve problems because those problems are big. They give because they understand the problems (with their hearts) and believe that can make a difference. Statistics get in the way of that.

So throw them out!


Comments

8 responses to “Why using statistics will kill your fundraising”

  1. I’m a grant writer who likes reading about regular person fundraising. The advice about avoiding statistics and logic seems real to me, and yet, as grant writers, we are required to include statistics. I try to downplay the stats, but believe they are necessary, because foundations may rank applicants by relative need, and by relative demonstrated impact. R the two methods of fundraising so opposite? thanks.

  2. I’m a grant writer who likes reading about regular person fundraising. The advice about avoiding statistics and logic seems real to me, and yet, as grant writers, we are required to include statistics. I try to downplay the stats, but believe they are necessary, because foundations may rank applicants by relative need, and by relative demonstrated impact. R the two methods of fundraising so opposite? thanks.

  3. Matthew Wolcott Avatar
    Matthew Wolcott

    Not sure I agree with this one. I’ve met many donors who are “numbers” people – logical and inquisitive thinkers – who speak the language of stats. I agree that speaking to the heart (vs the head) is a smart strategy, we are, after all, storytellers. But, who says you can’t do BOTH? In an age where more donors of all sizes are asking the fundamental question “What’s the impact of my donation? Where’s the evidence?”, sometimes outcomes are best conveyed with numbers. Depending on my audience and my appeal, I have tested successful appeals that rely on emotional stories sprinkled with some numbers-based anecdotes for good measure.

  4. Matthew Wolcott Avatar
    Matthew Wolcott

    Not sure I agree with this one. I’ve met many donors who are “numbers” people – logical and inquisitive thinkers – who speak the language of stats. I agree that speaking to the heart (vs the head) is a smart strategy, we are, after all, storytellers. But, who says you can’t do BOTH? In an age where more donors of all sizes are asking the fundamental question “What’s the impact of my donation? Where’s the evidence?”, sometimes outcomes are best conveyed with numbers. Depending on my audience and my appeal, I have tested successful appeals that rely on emotional stories sprinkled with some numbers-based anecdotes for good measure.

  5. EMC2: It’s entirely possible that grantraising is completely unlike fundraising. Foundations are organizations, not people. So when they say “give us stats,” you’d better give them stats. Skip their requirements, and you won’t even be considered. But your proposals are still read by people, so I’d make sure you also have emotional stories to touch their hearts.

  6. EMC2: It’s entirely possible that grantraising is completely unlike fundraising. Foundations are organizations, not people. So when they say “give us stats,” you’d better give them stats. Skip their requirements, and you won’t even be considered. But your proposals are still read by people, so I’d make sure you also have emotional stories to touch their hearts.

  7. This is an important point. It’s worth reading the original source material complete with the statistics on why statistics kills (irony included at no extra charge) http://csi.gsb.stanford.edu/increase-charitable-donations-appeal-heart

  8. This is an important point. It’s worth reading the original source material complete with the statistics on why statistics kills (irony included at no extra charge) http://csi.gsb.stanford.edu/increase-charitable-donations-appeal-heart

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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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