Saturday, April 07, 2007

"Sticky" Messages

The April 5, 2007 issue of The Chronicle of Philanthropy has a terrific article, "A Time to
Thrive" (p. 21), that provides highlights from the recent annual meeting of the Association of
Fundraising Professionals (AFP).

The article highlighted an address by Stanford Professor Chip Heath who, with his brother
Dan, "studied urban legends, business ideas, and other concepts that have fired the public
imagination, such as President John F. Kennedy's promise to 'put a man on the moon within a
decade,' to understand what made those messages sticky." They have a new book called Made to
Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. Prof. Heath said that charity leaders succumb to
"the curse of knowledge" - the more they know about a subject, the less effective they are in
explaining it to others. While experts are fascinated by the complexity of a subject, it's simple
messages that stick. Prof. Heath gave the example of an experiment where an appeal to feed one
hungry child (who was identified by name) was more effective than an appeal to feed 21 million
starving people.

This was a great reminder for me, and for all of us: when we are telling our organization's story,
whether in person or through the written word, personalize it. Tell one person's story, tell one
story of change.

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