"If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will." -- Mother Theresa
In a recent post, I wrote on how donations from U.S. companies to disaster relief had dwarfed what had been given to fight AIDS in Africa, even with the help of RED. There are probably many reasons why they gave more to one than the other, but a recent post on The Charity Blogger suggests one I hadn't considered.
According to the article, which isn't available online, psychologists have broken human response down into two systems. It's the first that most interests me.
System 1 is the "fight or flight" response we have to imminent danger, which forces our primitive minds to limit its choices and, interestingly, our humanity.
For instance, a problem like AIDS in Africa that affects millions and millions of people short circuits our humanity because we can't wrap our minds around the numbers. Whereas the waves of individual stories of tragedy that follow a disaster like the Tsunami evoke a knee-jerk humanitarian response.
The lesson here for cause marketers isn't new, but it is worth repeating. Numbers are "human beings with the tears dried off" and don't move donors to give. Urgent, emotional and personal images and language do. This is true whether you're communicating with a donor in person or through a mobile sold at a store register.