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What works better - Facts or stories?

Numbers are like salt.

They’re crucial to bring out flavor, but they should never be a main ingredient.

What do I mean?

You’re putting together some donor communication - an email, a newsletter, a donor touchpoint, a brochure. And you really want to impress those donors.

So you start cramming the piece with numbers. How many students you’ve added this year. How many new programs you’ve started. Maybe you even send the info to a designer to get it transformed into a cool infographic.

Here’s the problem, though - by focusing on numbers, you’re aiming wrong. You’re targeting your donors’ heads, not their hearts.

Not quite clear? Let’s take a quick look at the human brain.

Specifically, let’s zero in on two sections: the neocortex and the limbic system.

The neocortex is where we think from. It’s the home of logic, analysis. It’s where we evaluate facts, figures, pros and cons. It’s also responsible for language.

The limbic system, further down in the brain, determines our behavior and decision-making.

It’s also where our emotions come from. Unlike the neocortex, it can’t understand or express itself in language. Instead, it deals in gut feelings.

What does this have to do with the spiffy infographic in your brochure?

When we give donors facts and figures, we’re feeding their neocortex. Which means our facts are coming under logical, critical scrutiny.

You might think your numbers are impressive, but what if your donor misunderstands the context you’re operating in? You run the risk of their neocortex telling them, “Meh. Nothing valuable here. Next envelope please!”

When you make stories the focus of your communications, however, you talk to donors’ limbic systems. Which means you bypass their critical brain and connect directly to their feelings.

The limbic system is what creates inspiration. Desire. Fulfillment. It’s the place that synthesizes that gut “I-want-to-help!” feeling.

Of course, once that feeling is activated, donors will spend some time thinking. So the numbers and data still serve an important purpose.

But they should still be treated like salt: sprinkle them around to enhance the flavor of the meat and potatoes - your stories.

As 2022 winds to a close, I’d love to see your cool infographics and hear about your impressive numbers of the year. But make sure you weave them into some good stirring stories - that’s what will really get me to click on that “donate” link you’ll send along!



© Avraham Lewis & Co.