I'll join the chorus of folks saying amen to Seth's post, Times a million. His point: People really can't grasp huge numbers or vast distances. Our brains just aren't made that way.
Yet fundraisers persist in using the "times a million" argument, focusing on the enormity of problems like the humanitarian crisis in Darfur. After all, the reasoning goes, if an account of one sick, hungry child is moving, isn't that same story times a million even more moving?
Not at all. It's considerably less moving. As Seth points out, it just comes across as whining:
... all marketers who whine about the distant do is annoy people. At least the people who don't care about the distant. They don't get "times a million" math, and repeating it with frequency isn't going to help much.
You hear it all the time: 18,000 children die each day from malnutrition. Or is it 40,000? Depends on how you count (which is another problem with the big numbers). That fact (either one) is basically incomprehensible. One child in peril, on the other hand, is a powerful fact that anyone can respond to.
If you want to move people to action, don't hit them other the head with crushing numbers. Tell a story that's calibrated to the human brain.
(See also Emotional fundraising: 1 > 2,000,000.)