We have a secret. We love old wives’ tales. Often times you'll see parents cite old wives’ tales, either because they have a love of them, or because they just like anything that would keep a houseful of rowdy kids somewhat in check.

A few along the way have proven to be helpful, but most were just tales… the equivalent of ancient urban legends, passed down from family to family, with a few twists along the way.

Which of these do you think are true?

  • It takes seven years for chewing gum to pass through your digestive system.
  • Hair grows back darker and thicker after it has been shaved.
  • Storing batteries in a refrigerator or freezer will improve their performance.
  • Going swimming less than an hour after eating will cause cramping and drowning.
  • Earthquakes are most likely to happen when the weather is hot and dry.
  • A baby born in-flight is given free airfare for the rest of his/her life.
  • Little Mikey of Life Cereal fame died from eating Pop Rocks and drinking soda pop.
  • Unwary travelers wake in their hotel bathtub full of ice to discover a missing kidney, a phone and a note instructing them to dial 911.

Perhaps the last two tipped you off, but none of the above are true.  In fact, Snopes, the popular website that debunks urban myths, is easily accessible and includes facts to back up the untruth of each of these.

So when data and facts are so easily accessible, why do we continue believing legends and folklore?

Now we would like to give you a few examples of some of our favorite “Non Profit Urban Legends.”  Be honest. Take a moment and note how many you’ve believed.

  • Donors like to give to projects but don’t want to give to general operating support.
  • Donors who support missionaries or missionary staff will stop supporting them if the organization solicits them.
  • Donors get excited when they see detailed information about how the non profit works on the inside
  • Facebook is a great place to share pictures of our non profit having a Monday afternoon team-building exercise.
  • Likes on social media are the equivalent to engagement.
  • People don’t give online.
  • A great way to show good stewardship is to let volunteers create the organization’s website (or outbound communications of any type).
  • Major donors don’t like hearing from our organization unless it’s through their major gift officer.
  • A board member who hates direct mail is the best person to listen to when it comes to deciding how frequently we should send mail to our donors.

Get the idea? None of these are true either. We need to take these with far more grains of salt than the few grains of truth that may be part of the origination of any of these.

Lots of good opportunities are missed because we insist on believing non profit urban legends instead of finding good, empirical data and evidence that tells us a different truth.

No, donors don’t want to see you and your organization having a cookout on Monday. You may get a lot of Facebook likes, but barbeque pictures don’t speak at all to the lives being changed through the dollars your donors provide.  Likes don’t equal engagement, unless someone actually DOES something because of the information you’re providing. 

Ok, that was a two-for-one... BUT, now that a few of the urban legends are debunked, go put your renewed knowledge into action! 

organization in decline

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