Sunday, September 9, 2012

Study says most “top ten” fundraising lists insanely obvious

Most “top ten” fundraising lists on the Internet are obvious. And some are so obvious that reading them could be hazardous to your mental health. That's the conclusion of a new report by the global authority on top ten lists.

In its annual report on the state of the sector, the World Top Ten Authority in Geneva concluded that most of the “top ten” fundraising lists online are “plainly obvious”. The report also concluded that all 3 million top ten fundraising tip lists currently online today were plagiarized from just three original lists created in the late 1980s.

“Most of the top ten lists on fundraising are not worthy of being called top ten lists,” the report said. “Most are either painfully obvious or just unbelievable, and all seem to be have ripped off from other lists.”

The report found that most of the top ten lists were the same. The number one list item is usually “personalize your message”. Second place usually goes to “create a Facebook page” or ‘create a website”. Half the time, the third top item is either “about throwing a gala event” or “have a carwash/candle party/recycling drive”.

The Authority tested more than 100 fundraising tips at its central laboratories in New York City and found that 85% would not actually raise significant amounts of new donations for a typical North America mid-sized charity. In a third of third of the cases, the testing found that the charity would lose money.

More troubling was the finding that one in five of the top ten lists had content that was so insanely obvious that fundraisers could lose their minds trying to make the tip work and require years of therapy to recover.

"Fundraisers who see a tip like 'use social media' create an unattainable set of ideas in their mind. They try and try to make it work, but fail. Each time the cycle is repeated they become more unstable until finally they crack under the pressure," the report said. "These tips are cruel and unforgiving on the mind."

The report found test subjects exposed to certain lists began to lose a grip on reality and then either reverted to an infantile state or convince themselves they were birds and try to fly. Three test subjects were hospitalized as a result but were later released and became successful fundraising consultants. 

“If a charity actually follows some of these tips their fundraisers will go insane,” the report concluded.

The report found many fundraising tips were in fact impossible to actually do. More than 12% of the tips could not be achieved in laboratory testing. One particular tip actually lead to an explosion in the lab and slightly injured two scientists.

The report postulated that the majority of top ten fundraising lists were either made by fundraising agencies or consultants to get more business or people who were “mentally deranged” or perhaps both. The mental instability of the tip creators was most pronounced in tips about social media.

“Social media top ten fundraising lists are actually dangerous and should be avoided if at all possible,” the Authority concluded. "If a charity wants to use them it should only do so in controlled conditions under a doctor's care and away from any combustible sources."

The Authority said almost every top ten fundraising list ever created could be traced back to three lists compiled by Jacob Znorfblatt, a hospital fundraiser in Plano, Texas, in 1987. Oblivious to the dangers of his research, Znorfblatt was killed in a laboratory accident while developing a new top ten list about the use of social media in planned giving.