This last week, Katya Anderson wrote about the numbing of our compassion when we have heard lots of statistics and lots of stories.
I was just reading about this trend in “Half the Sky” and it frankly shocked me, that people could care less and less about greater quantities of people, the more stories that they read in an appeal letter.
Nick Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn write: “Frankly, we hesitate to pile on the data, since even when numbers are persuasive, they are not galvanizing. A growing collection of psychological studies show that statistics have a dulling effect, while it is individual stories that move people to act. In one experiment, research subjects were divided into several groups, and each person was asked to donate $5 to alleviate hunger abroad. One group was told the money would go to Rokia, a seven-year-old girl in Mali. Another group was told that the money would go to address malnutrition among 21 million Africans. The third group was told that the donations would go to Rokia, as in the first group, but this time her own hunger was presented as part of a background tapestry of global hunger, with some statistics thrown in. People were much more willing to donate to Rokia than 21 million hungry people, and even a mention of the larger problem made people less inclined to help her.” -Half the Sky, page 99
However, we are still bound by our biology, and it seems that people can easier wrap their heads around one person who needs help, rather than countless faceless thousands.
All of this time you’ve been trying to put giving to your nonprofit in a bigger social context, show the scope of the problem, you’ve been leaving money on the table.
I do hope every nonprofit fundraiser reading this blog will consider putting just ONE story in their next newsletter or appeal, sans statistics, and track those results as compared to previous appeals where several stories and statistics were mentioned.
Want 43+ more tips on how to write successful appeal letters? Just go here!
I’m a big advocate of featuring one individual in one story. I’ve had to argue and argue with organization after organization about this best-practice. What surprises me that there are still people out there who prefer relying on their own opinions than on research findings! Thanks for shedding some light on what is right.