Scope Neglect In Fundraising

I read this last week:

“You can ask people how much they’d be willing to pay in order to rescue 2,000 birds from an oil spill, or 200,000 birds from an oil spill. And they say the same amount (about $80) in both cases.”

It’s a phenomenon called ‘Scope neglect’, where the human brain can’t emotionally grasp large quantities.

If you’ve done any reading on fundraising or attended any decent seminars you’ve certainly heard it preached: talk about the one rather than the many.

Fundraisers like to quote Stalin: “When one man dies it is a tragedy, when thousands die it’s statistics.” (Did he actually say that?)

The truth is any ask that involves more than a handful of people is confusing and diluted. Tens of thousands – hundreds of thousands – it’s meaningless. If you talk about hundreds or thousands of people the brain will try to picture one of them in an attempt to grasp what you’re talking about.

You can save time and effort by talking about the one. And your potential donors will respond.


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