Good news and bad news about stats in fundraising

You probably know that using statistics in fundraising is not a great idea.

That’s partly true. Stats can turn donors away, but there’s also a way to put stats to work that can improve results. Read about it on The Agitator, at Do You Have a Big Number Problem?

The bad kind of statistic is large numbers. Like “One billion people live on a dollar a day.” That’s an mind-boggling fact; its boggling quality is exactly what’s wrong with it:

The problem with large numbers is they tend to be favored by experts (read nonprofit program staff) who do understand the details and nuance behind the big numbers, but often don’t realize these big numbers are abstractions and offer little in the way of either emotional or practical context.

Using large numbers to describe the problem you want donors to join you in helping to solve is not just ineffective: It creates reasons not to donate. “A billion people need help” is for many a reason not to donate. Because a problem that big looks unsolvable.

But there is a way to use statistics in a way that invites people in instead of pushing them away: Express big facts in terms of one. Like this:

… 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…

That turns a stat into a story. “One is six” creates a mental picture of one. Something your reader can imagine. And when you can picture one, you can picture being part of a solution.

When you avoid big numbers in fundraising, you aren’t hiding anything from donors. They already know the problems are big. Your job is to give them hope — hope that they can make a difference.


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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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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.

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