Facts, explanations, information. This is the stuff you'd think donors would welcome. After all, how else are they supposed to know how many orphans there are in Africa, why there's an orphan crisis, what caused it, how it can be solved, what the programs are, how they work, and on and on?
Problem is, if we go down that road in fundraising, we run into this: confirmation bias. It's people's tendency to accept information supporting our own beliefs and reject everything else.
Of course, there's a place for facts and figures in your nonprofit's content marketing, but in fundraising appeals, it's a whole different situation.
Cognitive scientists have been studying confirmation bias for a while, as reported in this New Yorker article: Why Facts Don't Change Our Minds. Turns out, there's very little about the workings of the mind that make sense.
For example, in one study, two groups of people -- one favoring capital punishment and one opposing it -- were given information that presented equally compelling facts, pro and con (because the information was made up). People who supported capital punishment rated the arguments for it as more credible, while people who were against capital punishment rated the arguments against it as more credible.
Then, afterwards, the groups were asked again. The pro-capital-punishment people were now even more in favor of it, and the anti-capital-punishment people were even more against it.
Information didn't change people's minds or convince them of anything. Exactly the opposite. It caused them to be more entrenched in their views.
Not only that, in other studies, even when it was revealed that the information was made up, people still clung to their original positions.
It's clear what this means for fundraising. We can inform, explain, and put forth reasoned arguments to donors all we want. Confirmation bias says that none of it will bring them around to our cause.
If we want to raise funds, we can't go up against confirmation bias. That's a losing battle. We can only go around it. And that means thinking of new ways to move donors' hearts. Not fill up their heads.