The Fallacy of Fact
According to a recent report that we profiled on our Tumblr, donors are looking for more information on organizational impact. This, in addition to increased scrutiny on overhead costs and administrative pay, means that nonprofits, more than ever, have to find new ways to show their relevance and importance in their community. But an issue that arises when trying to come up with new facts and figures to prove relevance is the idea of trust. That is – how do you know when to trust the information being provided?
While America continues the battle for truth during this election season, nonprofits and foundations wage the same war with distributing their own facts and figures. Take for example the case of Invisible Children earlier this year – soon after their viral video went mainstream, certain people began to question the facts and figures presented in their video as well as the organization’s financial health and excessive expenses. Invisible Children in response released further information on their financials, and stipulate that their media expenses are part of their program work. Which begs the question – when two different sources are taking the same data and coming up with different conclusions, which side should you trust? Are the facts telling you the whole story?
Let’s say your organization has a very similar audience and cause as another nonprofit. To say that you are rivals almost seems counter-intuitive to the nature of philanthropy, but in the real world of fundraising and donor cultivation, it is a fact that largely goes unspoken. You likely are also using similar statistics and measurements in showing why your cause is important, and the impact your organizations is having on your community. How do you report your facts and figures so that your organization is better? How will your audience know to trust you?
As we enter Breast Cancer Awareness Month, this wage of words will likely only increase. Take for example two of the most prominent organizations involved with Breast Cancer Awareness month – the American Cancer Society & Susan G. Komen Foundation. Both make similar statements on their respective websites (ACS: “As a result, we’ve played a role in nearly every major breast cancer research breakthrough in recent history” Komen: “Since 1982, Komen for the Cure has played a critical role in every major advance in the fight against breast cancer”). They essentially are saying the same thing here – and both use this terminology extensively in their appeals for donations and volunteer involvement. How do you know which one to trust? How could they have delivered this information so that there was no doubt to their impact or importance in this breast cancer landscape?
It is becoming increasingly important to provide donors and volunteers with information on your goals, your mission, and your impact. But what is also important is the fact that you have an opportunity to tell a story beyond the facts and figures – to build a relationship with your donors, volunteers, and staff that shows your impact outside of fundraising numbers and grants. Facts, and the truth that stems from it, can be interpreted in many different ways. Be certain that the story of your organization’s impact is one that cannot be misinterpreted.