If you’re a leader in a nonprofit organization, there’s a good chance you have a love affair with statistics.

More than 20% of people in our region…

1 out of 6 children in our community…

Every year 30,000 people in America…

I’m here to end the love affair….at least as it relates to your communication with your constituents. Statistics concerning the need for (or the reach of) your nonprofit organization are vitally important for developing internal strategy, writing grant proposals, and establishing benchmarks.

The trouble is, those same statistics don’t tend to move individual donors to action. There’s no tipping point at which the scope of a problem becomes the deciding factor for an individual to donate. No one is reading your literature and thinking, “Wow…this problem affects 1 in 10 people? If it was 1 in fifty, I wouldn’t care. But that’s just enough people affected for me to engage with this organization.”

Charitable giving is an emotional choice for most people, and statistics are anything but emotional.

Review your annual appeal letter. Is it statistics heavy? Does it read more like a grant proposal than an emotional appeal to a real flesh-and-bone human being?

Communicating with individual donors requires storytelling. Rather than illustrate the scope of your organization’s work (“We provided 6,500 meals in the month of March…”) focus on an individual and tell a personal story (“After 28 years with the same company, Brenda was laid off and could no longer afford private insurance…”).

Put a face on your organization’s mission. Tell a story rich in detail, with names, places, dates, sights and sounds.

Statistics can still have a place in a direct appeal, but that place is after an authentic, moving story about how your organization changes lives.