Archive for December 6th, 2013

December 6, 2013

Impressive Statistics v. One Good Story

As Christmas draws near, imagine what the holiday season would be like if it were reduced to a set of statistics:

One 5’10”, 300-pound man will fly around the Earth between December 24 and 25. He will visit approximately 91.8 million households, about 822.6 per second. To accomplish this, the jolly man will have to travel at 650 miles per second, which is 3,000 times the speed of sound.

Fortunately, Santa Claus has some fast flying reindeer; this is important since the average reindeer has a top speed of only 15 miles per hour, way too slow to get the job done. Santa’s reindeer are not just speedy; they are also mighty which is essential since the sleigh they will pull will be initially weighed down with approximately 353,000 tons of presents.

When Christmas and Santa Claus are reduced to a bunch of statistics (courtesy of Linda Harden’s article Is There a Santa Claus?), the result might be momentarily interesting, but hardly memorable or inspiring.

Part of what makes Christmas special are the stories. There is the story of the birth of Jesus. There are the movies such as The Miracle on 34th Street. There are the holiday songs that tell a Grinch and Max by Chuck Jones via Photobucketstory including The Little Drummer Boy, Frosty the Snowman, and Rudolf-the-Red-Nosed Reindeer. There are television shows including A Charlie Brown Christmas, Yes, Virginia, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

A good story draws us in. It stimulates our intellect and our emotions. A good story, well told, teaches and inspires. We remember great stories.

By now, I suspect you’ve already forgotten how many miles per second Santa must travel to deliver his presents. However, I bet you remember the plot to Rudolph or the Grinch. I bet you remember the nativity story.

My point is that, while statistics can be interesting and even compelling at times, people are more likely to be moved by stories. When we do fundraising, whether via direct mail or face-to-face, we should use fewer statistics and tell more stories.

Consider the following true story:

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