With the election of Donald Trump [on my birthday of all days] to the highest office in the known universe, and with his daily, how to put it, escapades, it’s become quite clear that within the modern cultural zeitgeist that capital F Facts no longer matter. Stephen Colbert coined the term truthiness back in the GWB era and we’ve since devolved further towards a new reality – one where now the truth no longer exists.
I’d assume that you disagree, to a degree. If you work in the social sector you are most likely driven by a set of core beliefs and values, a foundational pillar being that there are of course certain absolute truths. But there are no absolute truths in the social sector and fundraising as a whole, only subjective truths – there are simply the narratives that each donor tells themselves [tip: recognize the sonder]
There’s a old Tony Robbins analogy, which he probably adopted from Jim Rohn or Zig Ziglar even, that illustrates this idea well – it goes like this:
We are severely limited by our camera angles. Every documentary has a bias. Fox News is fair and balanced [to somebody…]. Shutter speed can be manipulated, ISO, to speak nothing of the power of Photoshop.
It’s funny that most “truths” that are absolute to even a certain degree, mostly grow to become cliche platitudes that we quickly dismiss. “Time is wasted on the young”, “History repeats itself”, “Each of us sees in others what we carry in our own hearts”. Time often takes 15 minutes too long to turn knowledge into wisdom, and most of us tend to hastily ignore these until we wish we didn’t – too stuck in our own self-delusion [admittedly necessary for growth] and selfish worldview.
*update: see this related article from Carnegy Melon: “Drawing on research in economics, psychology and sociology, Carnegie Mellon University’s George Loewenstein, Russell Golman and David Hagmann illustrate how people select their own reality by deliberately avoiding information that threatens their happiness and wellbeing.”
Take 15 to think about how you want to connect with me as a donor. Targets can include experience, faith, culture, geography, etc., one thing is for sure is that I don’t care what it is YOUR organization does, the infinite statistics that translate [to me] as thus unsolvable problems of manufactured urgency, but rather: assist me as a donor in crafting my own personal narrative into which I can write myself into, achieving my philanthropic goals with your organization as simply a conduit between my support [financial, time, attention, etc.] and the beneficiaries or social progress I seek a certain degree of self-actualization in being a part of.
Something to think about the next time you hastily put together a communications brief to speak to your donors in generalized segments rather than appealing to their individual truths.
“Physical concepts are free creations of the human mind, and are not, however it may seem, uniquely determined by the external world. In our endeavor to understand reality we are somewhat like a man trying to understand the mechanism of a closed watch. He sees the face and the moving hands, even hears its ticking, but he has no way of opening the case. If he is ingenious he may form some picture of a mechanism which could be responsible for all the things he observes, but he may never be quite sure his picture is the only one which could explain his observations. He will never be able to compare his picture with the real mechanism and he cannot even imagine the possibility of the meaning of such a comparison.”
– Albert Einstein, 1938