Fundraising and the Backward Brain
The Easier Said Than Done Engineering Department recently was commissioned to diagnose the root causes behind the failure of a direct-mail fundraising appeal that we'll call Project X.
Most people given that assignment would focus on things like strategy, audience selection, offer, timing and creative presentation. But our engineers went to the real root causes of Project X's failure: the brains of the people who planned and executed it. Here's their report: The cause of the failure of Project X was a serious and repeated case of hemispheric flip in the brains of the people who did the work. (Brain function review: The right hemisphere of the brain processes information in emotional, qualitative and connective ways. The left side processes rationally, quantitatively, sequentially.)
Hemispheric flip is when the sides of the brain are incorrectly deployed: What should be rational decisions are made emotionally — and vice versa. We found eight distinct cases of hemispheric flip in Project X.
Flip No. 1: Repetition
Creators decided to raise funds for Program Z instead of Program Y, because, they said, "We always talk about Program Y." This was a right-hemisphere reason. Left-hemisphere processing would have shown that Program Y does well every time they talk about it, and repetition doesn't hurt fundraising results, but in fact helps.
This common hemispheric flip happens when fundraisers focus on how their messaging feels to them, rather than how it plays out in the marketplace. What might seem like mind-numbing repetition to insiders often is a very reasonable stream of communication to outsiders who, after all, are paying much less attention.
Flip No. 2: How to ask higher donors
When planning which donors to ask, the creators said, "Don't write to anyone who's given more than $100; they won't respond to a low-end way of asking."