We have now sunk below the Goldfish

January 12, 2020

So, I have adult ADHD. Actually, I probably have had ADHD my whole life, but just been officially diagnosed in the last while. While that may explain some of my short attention span, there is a generally accepted theory that everyone’s attention span is getting shorter.

According to a study from Microsoft people now generally lose concentration after eight seconds – compared to the average attention span for the notoriously ill-focused goldfish which is nine seconds. This is highlighting the effects of an increasingly digitalized lifestyle on the brain. The study found out that since the year 2000 – when the mobile revolution started – the average attention span dropped from 12 seconds to eight seconds. The survey also confirmed generational differences for mobile use; for example, 77% of people aged 18 to 24 responded “yes” when asked, “When nothing is occupying my attention, the first thing I do is reach for my phone,” compared with only 10% of those over the age of 65.

So what does this mean with respect to fundraising?

It means that coming into a donor meeting with a 50-page prospectus or a 25-slide powerpoint will likely not be fruitful.

It also means that if a visitor to your site has to hunt and peck in order to make a donation, you will likely lose the donation.

Fundraising in 2020 is much different than it was in the mid-90’s (when I started). There were fewer things competing for our attention. Just think of how many emails you received from numerous charities in the last 3 weeks (one of my many pet peeves) and how many made a lasting impression with you. [Actually, one made a huge impression with me. I had made a donation in early December and the charity didn’t have the wherewithal to remove my name from the guilt-ridden end-of-year solicitation! — that’s a whole different story]

This notion of short attention also goes hand-in-hand with a (presumed) lowering of conversation time. So, instead of reaching for the smartphone when there is nothing occupying your attention, perhaps reach out to the person beside you and strike up a conversation.

Happy Belated 2020