The myth of myth-busting in fundraising

How many times have you heard (or said) We need to change our donors’ minds about [pressing issue]!

This thought sometimes leads to fundraising that focuses on busting myths. You’ve seen the type; it goes something like this:

MYTH: Most homeless people are men who live on the streets.

FACT: The majority of homeless people are families, and they stay with friends, sleep in their cars, and find other way to avoid living on the streets.

Perfectly true, but by saying it this way, you’ve made a terrible mistake. Because some, even many, of your readers will remember your refutation of the myth as a statement of fact.

In other words, when you attack false beliefs, you help spread them. It’s not true with everyone, but it is with enough people that this is worth paying attention to.

Widespread myths are simply pieces of information that are sticky — albeit false. Like “COVID-19 is a hoax.” They’re stickier than the negations.

This tells us two things for fundraising:

First, the myth-busting approach to fundraising is probably a lost cause. Don’t whack ’em around for believing untrue things. Give ’em something better (and more true) to believe.

Second, and more important, we need to keep a realistic view of the power of information. It’s a clumsy tool. Giving someone facts doesn’t mean they will take action. Really, giving someone the facts doesn’t even mean they’ll have the facts.

We spend a lot of energy on fine-tuning our messages, making sure they match the subtle shading of our unique philosophical platform and that they say everything we want to say.

Instead, we should make sure our messages say one thing at a time, with simplicity, clarity, and deeply affecting emotion.

If you want to raise funds, just raise funds. Leave myth-busting to journalists. Leave educating to the teachers. And leave improving donors to themselves.


Comments

Leave a Reply

What this blog is about

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.

Blog policies

Subscribe

Get new posts by email:

About the blogger

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.


Archives

Blogroll

Categories


Search the blog

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.

Recent Comments

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.

Blog Roll

someone’s blog