#82 It might actually be rocket science!: Newton's Laws of Motion and Fundraising

Direct marketers and copywriters will be screaming at us to stop. In November we write a blog about Epicurus and this month it’s all about Newton’s laws of motion. Whatever happened to writing at a 6th grade level?! Well, in our defence, we have no defence. But if I were to pull a reason from an orifice, I would say that like bloodhounds we tend to follow the scent wherever it takes us. We do this in the hope we find evidence that can be used to stop the biggest fundraising crimes.

In further defence, the Hemingwayapp said that paragraph was a Year 4 level - (thanks to @JeffBrooks for showing me this in a masterclass).

So, what do Newton’s laws of motion have to do with a real fundraising issue. Firstly, we need to know what the laws are. So slip into your lab coat, strap on the goggles, light the Bunsen burner and get your test tubes at the ready, we’re going to dip our toe into some science.

Law 1: Objects at rest remain at rest and objects in motion remain in motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.

Law 2: Force equals mass times acceleration (or f = ma).

Law 3: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

The first law says that the motion or lack thereof of an object will not change if it is not interrupted. In laypersons terms, do nothing and nothing will change. Do something and something may change. Knowing this puts us in a position of strength but we still have all the work ahead of us. We still need to work out what action is needed to guide the object or campaign in the required direction.

Law two means that an object with more mass will need more energy to move it. Ten donors can be easier to sway than 10,000 as a few phone calls can do the job rather than a hefty TM or DM campaign to encourage movement.

Law three says that the energy comes in pairs. For our fundraising, this means that any push could meet friction. Any ask or request of a group of donors, however lovely the messaging, will result in some level of pushback. You need to know how to best form this request and what level of friction is material and what denotes a crisis.

Ok, goggles off, what does this mean to us and why are we writing about it?

These rules can influence all campaigns but we at Fundraising Partners are most interested in one specific issue. This issue has been treated as if it were an additional law.

Newton’s 4th Law: Regular Giving attrition will always increase.

For the past decade we have seen face to face attrition worsen (and costs rise). Whilst until recently we hadn’t even been measuring attrition of telemarketing acquired donors. We just assumed it was fine because they were cheaper than f2f.

To make the picture even more grim, we know that not every charity has the ability to report on attrition, so they don’t know what is and is not working.

We’ve decided to call bullshit on this law. We are appealing to our friends in the charity sector to join us and debunk this man-made rule. We'll use the scientific methods of observation, measurement, and experiment to find the truth.

Some proxies for quality already exist. ‘Older donors will give for longer’, and ‘the supplier makes the difference’ need more interrogation.

We already know the supplier factor is less reliable now because subcontractors skip from one to another mid-campaign. Also because the account management of the supplier by the charity leads to materially different results so it’s time to measure your attrition by subcontractor and fundraiser for greater insight.

Furthermore, results can vary wildly from cause to cause so we need to identify the root causes of this epidemic before it wipes out these channels.

So, let’s use the three laws to motion us in the right direction. Let's gather the facts and move to prove or disprove the hypothesis: ‘Face to face and telemarketing attrition does not need to worsen each year’.

Who’s in?

PS: Hemingwayapp says this was Year 7, proving it is possible to discuss complex topics in a simple way.

Fundraising Partners offer a range of products, services and support for Regular Giving programs. You can contact us at info@fundraisingpartners.com.au or +61 2 8924 1987.