Nerdy Fundraising Analogy


Hat tip to Seth Godin for recently writing about Weber-Fechner law.  Here’s how Seth explains the law:

  • It’s easier to tell the difference between two bags of flour that are three ounces apart in weight when one weighs a pound, than it is to tell the difference between two bags that are three ounces apart when one weighs twenty pounds.
  • It’s easier to tell the difference between two flashlights that are 6 lumens apart when one is just 2 lumens bright than it is to tell them apart when one is 200 lumens.
  • The more stimulus you’re getting (light, sound, pressure, delight, sadness) the less easily you can notice a small change. That seems obvious, but it’s worth saying.

What does that have to do with fundraising?  A lot, these days.  There are 1,500,000 nonprofits in our country today.  The vast majority of them are fundraising.  That’s a lot of noise and stimulus.  And the average donor can’t tell them all apart. Are you cutting through the noise?  Does your messaging really stand out, quickly and powerfully?  Really?  Or does it blend in? Here’s what Weber-Fechner means for your nonprofit; you need to be willing to stand out in the crowd if you want attention (read; to raise money effectively).  This means you’re going to receive complaints and that some people aren’t going to like you.  This means you’re going to have to communicate to your donors more often than you think you do.  Or you can muddle along in the middle.

The people you’re serving are important, right?   Are they important enough for you to be edgy and bold enough to get attention?  If you aren’t, what’s holding you back?


Steven Screen is Co-Founder of The Better Fundraising Company and lead author of its blog. With over 25 years' fundraising experience, he gets energized by helping organizations understand how they can raise more money. He’s a second-generation fundraiser, a past winner of the Direct Mail Package of the Year, and data-driven.

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