Why focus groups and surveys always lie to us

Some of the biggest fundraising disasters I’ve witnessed had “iron-clad” approval from focus groups and/or donor survey research.

They loved it in the research!

But in the real world: Nothing.

Why were those donors lying to us? They seemed like such good people!

Well, they weren’t trying to lie. They were telling what seemed to them to be the truth. It’s just that they, like all human beings, make most decisions with their emotions — and we don’t have rational access to how our emotions work.

The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing.
– Blaise Pascal

When you use qualitative research, you will never get trustworthy qualitative information.

That’s the important message from The Monday Morning Memo at The Treachery of Surveys:

Most of the thoughts and feelings that influence consumers’ behavior occur in the unconscious mind…. People think they will make an objective, transactional decision, when in reality they will make a subjective, relational one.

We believe we will decide with our mind. But in the moment of truth, we decide with our heart.

You can learn interesting things from qualitative research. But you cannot get facts about future donor behavior that you can count on.

For that, you have to look at actual donor behavior.


Comments

2 responses to “Why focus groups and surveys always lie to us”

  1. Interestingly a company in the UK are doing some work combining both qual and quant data from supporter behaviour and their reported behaviour.
    I’#d recommend checking out the Chase Index – About Loyalty. They’ve got some really interesting stuff.

  2. Interestingly a company in the UK are doing some work combining both qual and quant data from supporter behaviour and their reported behaviour.
    I’#d recommend checking out the Chase Index – About Loyalty. They’ve got some really interesting stuff.

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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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