Do you ever wonder what you can tell about a person from the way they look? Recently, I’ve been assisting with some donor research for a major campaign. When gathering information, photographs invariably come into the mix. This got me wondering – what can you discern from the way your donor looks?
If I were to take the advice of my mother, the answer would surely be ‘a good deal.’ I grew up listening to my mum during the evening news tell me all about people from the way they looked. ‘I don’t like that man; he has a nasty mouth.’ (I don’t really want to admit it but I tended to agree his mouth wasn’t born out of happy street).
It seems my mum isn’t the only one who uses mouths and eyes as a indication of personality. As I collate the research together and a new image appears, I hear comments from colleagues like ‘he looks friendly’, ‘she’s like my grandma’, or ‘oh… I’m not sure about calling him, he looks cranky.’
So I delved into my bookshelf and unearthed a copy of Snoop: what your stuff says about you. I acquired this book more than 2 years ago now. It seems that since then the author Sam Gosling has acquired a PhD and the book has been re-released with a new lime green finish.
I remember buying it. It was the first paragraph on the back which caught my attention:
What does your desk reveal about your personality? What about the books you own or the pictures on your wall? And what’s the best way to find out what your new partner is really like?
It was the desk comment which did it for you see, comments on my desk are not uncommon. Many a colleague has remarked that they don’t understand me and my desk. My messy desk does not fit with all their other perceptions. ‘How can you be so meticulous with your data but have a desk like that?’ This one is almost as common as ‘How can you work with numbers all day long yet you can create art like that?’ (For my answer explaining the two can co-exist see: Data and Creativity.)
Would Snoop reveal to me the mystery of my messy desk? (I’m not sure whether it solved the mystery but Gosling himself admits to a mess of a desk and he seems to have some street cred when it comes to analytics so I’ll take that as proof that a messy desk does not spell the end of my analytical career).
But back to donors and their faces. Gosling for the most part focuses on physical environments, however he does talk about some research he conducted where he asked students to
rate people’s personalities just from looking at photographs of them. Considering they have nothing more than a still photo to go on, our observers… were surprisingly accurate at judging others’ levels of extraversion, agreeableness, and openness.
So it would seem if on viewing a photograph of a donor I see them as creative or unconventional, this can be a valid way of determining they are a person high in openness.
My next line of thinking is whether we can do anything with that? I tend to think perhaps we can.
If people who are high on openness like playing with new ideas, trying new activities and challenging traditional thought, then I’m sure that in turn can influence which programs they may want to financially support. Alternatively, if I’m seeing photographs of donors who appear relaxed and cheerful, then assuming that they may be high on agreeableness is apparently ok. And I’m sure that fundraisers are looking for people high agreeableness since they “tend to be helpful, selfless, sympathetic, kind, forgiving, trusting and considerate.”
He doesn’t say much about people with nasty mouths though. I must tell my mother that.
Have I mentioned recently how dodgy my fundraising database is? Barry is at serious risk of being bashed over the head with a tyre iron. Yes, you didn’t know that data monkeys could be violent, did you? Well, we can.
Given this acute grumpiness I engaged in a moment of reflection this evening.
I’ve had poor data before. I’ve had databases – fundraising and clinical – with all the wit and charm of Peter Reith – why is this particular fundraising database different?
I think it’s because his days are numbered. If it was just the idea of getting a new donor database, I’d remind myself that it would be eons away. Yet, Barry’s replacement is on the horizon and so I become more and more irritated with him each day.
This is far from helpful given I’m trying to convince staff who have severe Barry avoidance issues, that they must open him up and use him! They point at the names the database spat out and say: ‘see, look how useless this data is.’ I want to answer, ‘well of course Barry thinks Harold Holt is still the Prime Minister. That’s how long since anyone put any decent data in him!’
How can I business possibly survive this way?
Easy. It’s called the Excel spreadsheet to the rescue. When your database isn’t as helpful as you’d like, make an excel spreadsheet. It won’t do any harm. I promise. It’s just ONE little mailing list.
If it truly were just one little mailing list, it would probably be ok. However these excel spreadsheets become endemic and pretty soon you’re wondering why your donor database is 3 Premiers behind reality.
In the defence of these excel spreadsheet masterminds, they do it because all too often the fundraising database isn’t up to the task. If Barry could send an email, they wouldn’t have this separate email / SMS list. If he knew how to remind them to ring a Major Donor, they wouldn’t have the outlook reminder, or the paper diary, or worse, no reminder at all.
What? No Reminder? How can that happen? Well, we all know that the email alert, the post-it note on your computer screen, the ‘write it on your hand and don’t have a bath’ method can all be effective… until you change staff.
I recall a gentleman I once worked with at the Free the Flamingo Foundation. This guy was a seasoned fundraiser, joining the Organisation full of hope and enthusiasm. Early on, he asked me to generate a list of the Organisation’s major donors.
‘Anyone who has given over $50k (single gift) and then, if there aren’t enough of those maybe $20k’.
Knowing what was in the donor database, I answered quickly: ‘It’s going to be a bloody short list’.
He wasn’t impressed!
So the criteria got knocked further and further down. We got to the point where we had found the mass. Turns out lots of people gave $1,000 to help the flamingoes. Yet that was the problem, there was a mass of donors at the $1,000 mark and almost no one above it. Where does one start?
He would ask me sensible questions like ‘tell me which ones we’ve had the most contact with?’ or ‘which ones are the most connected?’, or ‘who has attended a recent event?’ and it was my duty to disappoint him again by revealing such information was – at best – in the notes and we’d need to employ the text fairy – and at worst – in the heads of people who no longer worked there.
This I have decided this is the 11th reason why Major Gift Programs Suck: we consistently fail to plan for changing staff by documenting well. (To read the original 10, check out the thought-provoking series: ’10 Reasons Why Most Major Gift Programs Suck’ on the Passionate Giving blog. Highly recommended.)
I wish I could tell you that the Free the Flamingo Foundation solved this issue. Alas not. In fact, my seasoned fundraiser repeated the seasoned mistake and after a year or so of relationship development, he too walked out the door with the knowledge in his head.
If you’re a data person in a not for profit, I’m sure this is a familiar scenario. ‘We want to have a major donor event… a tour of the facilities, a service manager will speak… could you find us some donors to invite?’ Ok, I exaggerate. Maybe you’re a lucky database manager and the fundraiser asks you for all donors who have given say $1000 or more. After some ferreting in the database, you come up with a list and send it back to the fundraiser. Let’s say there are two people on your list – tweedledum and tweedledee.
Meet tweedledum.He meets your fundraiser’s criteria – he has given one donation of $1000 last year.
Now meet tweedledee. He’s given the same amount of money – $1000 last year, however he knows the chairman, is managing director of a well known hardware franchise and already attended the Organisation’s gala dinner.
Ok, fundraisers, it’s time to vote.
I’m imagining that many fundraiser’s would pick Tweedledee – after all you know he has a stronger connection to the Organisation. Some of you may pick Tweedledum thinking that this is a trick question. Well, I’ve got news for you, it IS a trick question. However the answer may not be what you think.
Tweedledum and Tweedledee are actually the same donor. The difference is that Tweedledum is in your database with the information recorded above (1 gift of $1000). The extra things listed about Tweedledee are all the things the fundraiser’s know but haven’t put in the database! So if the aim of this event was to capture donors who had never met the chairman, or knew little about our cause, we’d look mighty silly inviting Tweedledee. If we were looking for donors to nurture, Tweedledum may be overlooked for lack of history – what a lost opportunity!
How much do you know about your donors that isn’t in your database?