The “Six Degrees of Separation” theory, first proposed by Frigyes Karinthy, is so well-known that it is routinely accepted as accurate. But this is 2014 – the age of social media – a decade since Facebook was founded within the halls of a Harvard dormitory. So surely the theory can be tested?
It turns out it has been: three years ago, in November, various news outlets began reporting on our “shrinking world.” Facebook announced that a study had taken place analyzing its users’ connections and had discovered an exciting new development. As extraordinary as it seems that we could be six steps away from anyone else in the world, it turns out it’s an overestimation. In fact, we are separated by 4.74 degrees from anyone globally and are a mere 3.74 steps away from people within the same country.
A couple of weeks ago, in a blog post at fundraisingcounsel.com, Jerry Henry discussed the “Six Degrees of Fundraising” and how “relationships are vital to the success of raising funds in the nonprofit sector.” Why are they so vital? It’s simple – people are always going to be more likely to donate to people that they trust.
Here’s the rub though. If we are all only roughly three steps away from being connected to any prospective donor, what’s the value in discovering that path? How is a fundraising organization supposed to distinguish itself as “trusted”? The simple truth is that, with the world getting smaller, reaching and engaging with a prospective donor through a third degree connection is almost never going to be effective.
Fundraising organizations need to work to discover much closer relationships – because in this day and age when almost anyone can boast about being three steps away from someone, only a connection that is one step away truly represents an actionable path to a prospect.