The Planned Giving Blogger

The art and science of planned giving.

Communicating impact effectively.

with 3 comments

Lisa Sargent, in her Loyalty Letter blog describes how our usual way of talking about our work using numbers and statistics makes comprehension challenging for most people.  We are a nation of innumeracy–mathematic illiteracy–so our readers have difficulty with large numbers and percentages.

Lisa says, “So instead of writing, “63% of prison inmates can’t read,” you instead write: More than six out of every ten prison inmates can’t read. Now for the larger-than-life number: 774 million.

Most humans have no way to process a number that big. We simply can’t get our heads around it. Adding a reference point, though, changes things considerably: 774 million people in the world are illiterate — more than the entire population of North America.”

Read Lisa’s blog post for the full details and great references for even more information.  And then take a look at some of your fundraising and stewardship letters and planned giving marketing materials, including newsletter articles.  Check the numbers and statistics you’ve used and see if they pass the Human Scale Principle test.  Verify that you are giving everyday meaning to your numbers.



Written by Phyllis Freedman

February 1, 2010 at 11:45 pm

3 Responses

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  1. Phyllis,
    In addition to the numbers, another way your readers can communicate impact more effectively is by paying attention to the reading level of their donor communications: research shows that even educated people retain more at about a Grade 7 level. Turning on Flesch-Kincaid Readability Statistics in Word reveals the level of what you write. Instructions for this are also on my website (accessible via the link you give above). See the Free Resources section, “21-1/2 Tips for Writing Better Fundraising Materials.” It’s Tip #6. Many thanks for sharing The Loyalty Letter w/ your readers.
    All best,
    Lisa Sargent

    Lisa Sargent

    February 2, 2010 at 9:34 am

  2. […] I’ve written about impact in a number of posts.  You can read a couple here, and here. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Reach out and touch someone.New year’s […]

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