how to stick in your donor’s mind

The Walmart heirs’ net worth exceeds the net worth of the entire population of the city of Phoenix.

What? (Don’t go political on me, just breathe, think and keep reading).

I suspect that, no matter what you believe philosophically or politically about the Walton family and their fortune, this idea of the size of the Walton heir’s family fortune was a bit of a mental “speed bump.” It’ll stick in your brain.

I read the Walmart/Phoenix thing in a blog I follow a few days ago on a trip. I saved it into Evernote, where everything I want to think about is saved, and intended to go back to it. I didn’t give it another thought.

Then I’m on another trip. Flying into DFW.

Outside my the window was the DFW sprawl . . . I wondered how many people I could see out the window and then BANG I’m thinking about the Walton fortune . . .

“How many actually people are considered ‘Walton heirs’?”

“What are they doing with all that money?”

“What’s that life like?”

“Wait, do any of them actually ‘work’?”

Suddenly I’m rooting around in Evernote to find the info to review. (I love that the FAA will finally let me use my iPad all the time.)

I had a steady stream of “wonderings” long after I’d read that sentence.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could plant the same kind of speed bump in your donors’ minds?

Even better, wouldn’t it be great if your donors would spontaneously think about your cause and your work and how you’re making the world better?

You can.

It’s easy to understand, but it’s not easy to do.

You may have read or heard me say that “infographics are the new headlines.”

Much like headlines, infographics are designed to get your attention and give you enough information for you to want to read further. Unlike most headlines, infographics have the power to stick in your brain. This Walmart/Phoenix thing isn’t technically an infographic, but functions similarly. And it would make a great infographic. Maybe it’s a statistical metaphor.

How do you do it? Simple (not easy though).

1. Find a mission-critical statistic. This is a number that’s tied to the heart and soul of your work. This is a number that reveals the DNA of your cause. Or illustrates the roots of the problem you’re solving. Or it paints the picture of the plight of the people you’re helping.

2. Find a non-related but concrete, visual statistic that you can buckle to your mission-critical statistic.

Here’s how it worked in this Walton/Phoenix thing. In 2013, the Walton heirs were worth $144.7 billion. That’s the equivalent of the net worth of 1,782,020 average American families.

That alone isn’t a very impressive connection . . . I mean 1.7 million is a lot but . . . how big is it really? How about equivalent to the population of Phoenix? Or the population of the State of Louisiana? Whoa. Now I have a “mental speed bump” that gives me a “thinking pause.”

Connecting two important but unconnected facts stops your donor’s scanning brain in its thinking-track. Voila’– a mental speed bump.

A caution about this: this is a potent communication strategy. If you do this well your donors and others will be thinking about it more than any of the other stats or facts you’ve thrown out there.

People will fact-check and ask questions. If you put it out there in Social Media land, they’ll discuss it. They’ll dispute it. They’ll doubt it. They’ll research it. They’ll tell other people about it. And that’s grand in every way.

One more caution . . . this requires a deft hand. If you overuse the strategy, you’ll dilute its power. If you play it badly or sloppy, it’ll come back to bite you. But hey, that’s the way it is with any strategy that has some juice to it.

How could you use it? (NOTE: I’m just riffing here. I’m making up these stats).

Maybe something like:

  • Every night on the streets of our city there are enough homeless men, women and families to fill every room in Hilton Convention Center Hotel.

  • In our state, a person has to work 67 hours a week at minimum wage to have an income above the state’s income poverty threshold.

  • Everyday we directly assist enough people to fill five 747 jumbo jets. Unfortunately, the people who we cannot help and are on our waiting list would fill a Jumbo jet to 60% capacity.

You get the idea.

Remember, you’re attaching your “key” statistic to a concrete but not specifically related concept.

What do you think? Have you been using these “speed bumps?” I’d love to hear from you.


Steve Thomas
Partner, Oneicity

(photo credit: dierkschaefer)

Steve Thomas

Steve Thomas

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