It’s not often that you come upon an interesting study that helps with a project you’re working on right then.
That happened to me this week, and I thought I’d share, in case it’s helpful to you, as well.
I’ve been working on an appeal for a brand new organization. They’re focused on hunger issues and they need to raise money to get started. We’d been working on an appeal for monthly gifts. For a new organization, having that steady source of support – both financial and emotional – would make a huge difference.
I wanted to talk about a gift as a small monthly expense. Easy to budget, easy to give and with big impact. But we were struggling with a good comparison. Cup of coffee? Some other common food expense?
Then another friend pointed me to this article in Science Daily. The summary:
Giving to a charity increases when fundraisers ask people to compare the donation cost to something indulgent,” write authors Jennifer Savary (Yale University), Kelly Goldsmith (Northwestern University), and Ravi Dhar (Yale University). After envisioning something they see as selfishly pleasing, the decision not to donate then feels too selfish by contrast. People don’t want to look selfish, even in their own eyes.
This was a field study. The authors handed people on the street a letter, asking for a $5 donation to UNICEF. But they were handing out two letters. In one, they mentioned the $5 donation was what it cost to buy a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. In the other, they compared the donation to a tube of toothpaste.
This is what I found interesting.
When the comparison was to something seen as indulgent, people were far more likely to make the donation. The authors of the study did some more research and concluded choosing not to donate when thinking of a treat made people feel selfish. Choosing a donation helped them fix that bad feeling. Toothpaste didn’t have the same effect.
The authors explain:
The message to charities is clear. Donation rates can be immediately improved by encouraging potential donors to envision a tempting, indulgent alternative. A significant number of people will then make the more generous choice.
Ok. So it’s one article about one study. I wouldn’t retool your giving program over it. But it does shed some interesting light on donors’ motivations. And if you were thinking of using some sort of comparison (as I was), it might be worth taking these findings into account.
No one likes to feel selfish. Offering donors the choice between generous behavior and indulgent behavior makes sense.
Photo credit: By spablab [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons