Published on November 2, 2016 by

Fundraisers: data does not tell its own story to senior managers

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So many interesting things in this for fundraisers...

https://jasonlefkowitz.net/2014/01/against-line-chart-liberalism/

How often do we draw conflicting conclusions from donor data? Also, how often do we try to rely on data and facts (the head) rather than narratives and emotions (the heart and gut) to motivate donors to take action?

As Jason says in the article I linked to above, "assuming that data can tell its own story ignores something fundamental that we know about how communications between humans works. People aren’t motivated by facts; they are motivated by narratives, by stories."

Senior managers often hate the emotional narratives needed to inspire donations.

Also the line, "You have to reach out to people as they are, not as you would wish them to be." That's exactly my point in my post about emotions. You need to start with emotions the donor already has... not the emotions you want the donor to have.

But I've written a lot about telling stories and donor emotions elsewhere.

Today, I want to focus on the emotions of other very important people in your charity. They will have more influence on your fundraising success (or failure) than anyone else.

Your senior leaders - CEO, Board members and other senior non-fundraising staff (this can include marketing and communications staff as well as program delivery or research staff).

However, we as "data-driven" fundraisers depend heavily on data to try and convince the higher-ups in charities that certain emotion-laden direct response techniques work. The assumption is that they're motivated by the bottom line which is true to some extent.

But do we need to do what we do for donors? That is, give non-profit managers an emotional kick in the guts that challenges their anti-fundraising view enough to try something new? It's a tough job though. That's because the emotions of senior managers are overwhelmingly negative towards direct response.

So often we try to convince them with facts (I've done this myself), "If they can only see the data about income and response rates, they'll change their minds." Unfortunately, this is not the case. Data alone does not convince senior non-profit managers to invest in fundraising.

In fact, it's harder to get an anti-fundraising CEO, Board member or senior manager to support direct response fundraising efforts than it is to raise money from current donors!

But it's not impossible.

Senior leaders in a non-profit are similar to major donors in their needs.

Fundraisers generally understand that major donors are a bit different to other donors. While the giving decision is emotional, they require more facts and data about the work to support their decision. If you're missing the emotion or missing the data, your appeal will fail (or won't be as effective).

In the same way, senior non-profit leaders also need data (that shows investment into fundraising will pay off) and the emotional connection (the belief that direct response fundraising is a good and right thing to do as well as the conviction that they will be able to do more for their cause).

If you're missing the data or missing the emotion (or missing the right emotion), then your appeal for senior managers to support your fundraising efforts will fail.

How many times has a fundraising manager presented all the facts about income and response rates and ROI (the data) only to have a proposal flattened because someone senior believes that direct mail is somehow wrong (lacking the right emotion)?

Conversely, senior leaders may admire or be envious of the direct mail fundraising done by other, usually larger, charities (the emotion). But they won't approve an investment into fundraising because they're not convinced it will pay off for them (lack of data).

 

Need help with presenting compelling data and evoking the right emotions for senior non-profit managers? Then send me a message.

June works with non-profits on fundraising strategy for individual giving and direct response copywriting for print and digital fundraising campaigns. Feel free to connect with June via LinkedIn or Twitter.

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