- Mon, December 19 2011
- Filed under: Fundraising essentials
If you read this blog, you know how much I adore research. But here’s the thing about research. When it measures what people do, it’s very valuable. When it measures what people say, it’s potentially misleading. Why? Because human beings are dreadful at accurately predicting their own behavior.
Years ago, the very smart Kristen Grimm of Spitfire Strategies told me a story. She knew of a research company that did focus-group research with young people on Sony boom boxes, and the participants all said a yellow boom box was a great idea. At the exit, they were offered a free boom box in black and yellow models. Everyone took the black. You have to pay attention to what people actually do at the end of the day.
(If you don’t know what a boom box is, it was a large, “portable” stereo. Believe it or not, it used to be cool to have a iPod the size of a duffel bag and to carry it on your shoulder next to your oversized hairdo. This fact makes my children double over in laughter. That and the fact that I say things like “young people.”)
Now there’s a study out that shows this situation extends to people predicting their giving behaviors. An eBay study summarized here and detailed by Nick Aldridge showed donors’ stated top choices in charity and actual giving didn’t closely correspond. Aldridge suggests donors were more responsive to emotion than they predicted, and less rational than they claimed.
The bottom line? When someone cites a study about donors, take a good look at how they research was conducted. Was it based on actions or words? And if it was based on words, did the researchers do a good job in posing the questions that uncover people’s actual motivations? Good researchers will. Their goal is real insight, not easy answers.