In the last week a few people on my Twitter timeline have posted (some sceptically) the results of Google's research in to how and why people donate on-line.
The conclusions from the statistics included that 75% of people start their donation research on-line, 74% of people donate because they believe in the mission, and 57% of people make a donation after watching a video.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that this is all complete bullshit.
Firstly, common sense - think about those numbers. Of course it's not true that more than half of people donate after watching a video. Of course it's not true that three quarters of people donate because they believe in the mission - do you even know what your favourite charity's mission is?
Secondly, let's look at the survey and trace it back.
The article I just read was this one, that exclaims that "57% of Those Who Watch Nonprofit Videos Go On to Make a Donation". Please note that the article is written by a YouTube Video Producer. I'm sure he's very good at that. But his statistic is just not true. That's not his fault...let's look where he gets it from.
He gets it from here. It's a nice article that most subsequent articles are referring to. It casually mentions that "An impressive 57% of people who watch a video for a nonprofit go on to make a donation."
But it doesn't link to the original research, which is a shame.
The original research is quite hard to find. Here it is. It is incredibly vague and unhelpful. It's also notable in the fact that the research was actually carried out by MillwardBrown Digital...in association with Google.
Look a bit further and you'll find the methodology, which is almost always overlooked when we read statistics. This particular methodology really tells us very little.
But it does tell us they surveyed 982 people. I hate surveys - they are generally used by students and people trying to sell you something. The truth is when you ask people about their donation habits it is completely unreliable.
They also 'tracked donors behaviour backwards'. It is possible that they looked at donors, worked backwards and found that 57% of people had come from videos. But that certainly isn't the same thing as 57% of people make a donation after watching a video. I would assume that more than 99% of people watch a video and then do nothing. This is either really badly worded...or they're just wrong.
And the carelessness in this analysing and presentation of statistics is dangerous. I find statistics in charitable fundraising particularly dangerous.
Small, medium and even large charities are going to read these statistics and going to read articles written by very intelligent people. They're going to assume that it's correct - 57% of people who watch a video will go on to donate. And then they're going to put their fundraising budget in to making these videos. They'll put them on-line and they will do nothing. They will not generate income. They will fail. And that money will be gone.
These statistics are dangerous because it draws charities in to the belief that this is what will work for them.
Please don't put your fundraising budget in to YouTube videos unless it is part of a bigger and more researched fundraising mix.