A type of statistic that works in fundraising?

Is there a way to persuade people to care by using statistics?

Maybe.

It’s not by bowling them over with huge numbers. That just tells people not to give because they can’t make a difference.

But there just might be a type of stat that doesn’t do that, as reported by The Agitator at The Reality Distortion Field: Focusing on the One.

In some testing, a certain kind of statistic was found to work just as well as individual stories:

… the winning statistics were brought down to a unit — one in six children or one in 11 adults has this disease or goes hungry at night. Instead of 11 million this and 19 million that, they brought down the statistics to the level than an individual person could make a difference.

In this research, a numbers-based fact that encourages you to visualize one person rather than many didn’t have the response-killing effect that we usually associate with the use of statistics.

If this result holds true, it might tell us that statistics aren’t the enemy of fundraising. Maybe the enemy, the thing we must avoid is large numbers … not numbers in general.

Please don’t take this as some kind of “abandon ship” for storytelling. Your “one in X” fact has to be compelling and relevant to the people you’re communicating with. I keep seeing a fundraising proposition like this: 1 in 4 children is food insecure. How many normal people know what “food insecure” means? Sounds more like some kind of nettlesome neurosis than a serious problem I should donate to help overcome.

But use your imagination to turn those picture-of-one stats into emotional turning points for your donors. It might work!

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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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