Here’s a fact: The majority of donors today are over 60 years old.

Another fact: The majority of money donated comes from donors 60 and over.

Here’s a good guess: the vast majority of website designers, fundraising professionals, program staff and consultants are much younger than that.

Here’s why this is a potential problem in fundraising: naïve realism. That’s a cognitive bias in which we all believe that the way we view things is objective truth. Daniel Kahneman, the father behavioral economics, puts it this way: “other people view the world much the way we do…We do not go through life imagining alternative ways to see what we see.”

In a snarkier vein, here’s how my coach puts it: “other people are not just failed versions of you.”

Naïve realism is insidious. We intellectually know our partners, our kids, our colleagues, and our donors all have their own unique perspectives on things, but some part of us just doesn’t believe it. That’s why my mother-in-law thinks “I’m wrong” when I tell her I don’t like sweet potatoes.

In fundraising, naïve realism wreaks havoc on a daily basis. Program staff tear up draft copy believing that like them, donors see the world through the lens of academic training. Website donors design websites that they personally think are awesome, never mind that the average donor may find it impossible to navigate. And on and on.

This is a fixable problem, but it’s a lot of work. First, abandon the fantasy that just because you understand that naïve realism is a cognitive bias, you’re not vulnerable to it. Kahneman himself says “there are many biases, and I certainly do not claim to be immune from them. I suffer from all of them.”  So do you and I.

Second, replace your biased certainty with data. It takes less than an hour or two to user test a website page or a donate form with three or four over-60 donors. Don’t fall into the trap of believing that this ‘unscientific sample’ of seniors doesn’t prove anything. If you’re 35 or 40, the odds are really good that their perception is more representative than yours.

Third, trust the experts who have studied the data. Tom Ahern has written books on how things like reversed-out type, small type, and other printing fads make copy unreadable to older eyes. Hemingwayapp will tell you instantly whether your “About Us” copy is incomprehensible to anyone but someone with three doctorates.

Fundraising is fundamentally about good communication. Good communication requires a deep humility that your donors are not just other versions of you.

The truth is out there. It’s just probably not what you think it is.