New York Times: What Data Can’t Do

Before we launch into why we find the article “What Data Can’t Do,” from the New York Times so interesting, let me confess that we’re huge data geeks.

We all have friends who make fun of us because we consider sifting through reams of data, looking for the “AHA” nugget, entertaining…OK, we’re exaggerating a little, maybe, but you get the picture.

Data analysis is an important factor in our decision making. But the article points to other factors, like values and emotion, which are dominating influences in the worlds of Advancements and Enrollment.

You’ll find a link to the full article is below, but here’s a snippet:

“Data struggles with context.”

“Human decisions are not discrete events. They are embedded in sequences and contexts.”

“The human brain has evolved to account for this reality. People are really good at telling stories that weave together multiple causes and multiple contexts. Data analysis is pretty bad at narrative and emergent thinking, and it cannot match the explanatory suppleness of even a mediocre novel.”

Why Can’t Data Do It All?

While data is invaluable to define and segment audiences for tailored messages, annual fund professionals know that if these messages don’t tap into an emotional connection to the college, there will be no gift.

Regarding where the big money is, major gift officers know that data cannot drive the sophisticated social and emotional nuance needed in the one-on-one relationship between the president and prospect to inspire a transformational gift.

If the prospect does not trust that institutional leadership can deliver on their promise, regardless of the stated commitment or facts and figures, he or she will bring the gift elsewhere to a leadership team that he or she does trust.

Read “What Data Can’t Do.”

To learn more about the importance of emotional connection to charitable giving, read our Insight In Brief: Emotional Connection Inspires Philanthropy.

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