People are weird and will lie to you

People are outwardly mostly normal. But if you scratch the surface, pretty much everyone out there is kinda weird. And with that weirdness comes a degree of unexpected behaviour.

This isn’t anything new. Anyone that’s been doing fundraising for a while knows just how strange donor behaviour can get.

So we try and mitigate the weirdness the best we can by asking donors what they like, in the form of surveys and focus groups and stuff like that.

But people are damn dirty liars and won’t tell you the truth.

They don’t *mean* to lie to you. People legitimately just don’t know what they want or like.

A few years ago I was at a conference where a really big UK charity was talking about how they surveyed their mid-level donors about the kind of images they were using in their fundraising. A couple of donors had made comments (not even sure if they were complaints?) and so they wanted to understand if it was a bigger problem or not.

And then I listened in horror when they said they’d just swapped the images out based on what the donors had said in the survey. No testing.

The donors had picked images they *thought* were good – and would make them look like good rational people too. All crap: pictures of scientists doing research, some lab photos, that kind of hyper-rational stuff that makes sense on the surface. All because a couple of comments (come on people, sometimes complaints are good!)

Everyone will give with their emotions and will rationalise it later on.

It’s why the SPCA’s Sarah McLachlin ad and ones like it are so good.

Don’t get me wrong here. Surveys, focus groups, interviews – all of that stuff has its place. Especially as a way of engaging people deeper. You should always be listening.

But when it comes to behaviour, you’ve gotta take what people say they want and test to see if it’s true.

Luckily testing is pretty easy, especially if you’ve got a guide.

(The classic example of testing behaviour was a study done by Good Luck margarine in the 1940s. They figured out why margarine had a bad rep through behavioural studies, changed a few things, and margarine overtook butter as the spread of choice in US households for the next fifty years).