Think about the last time you gave to a charitable organization. Would you have given more if you’d been approached in person by someone who happened to share your first name? Would you have given less if you had more factual information about the cause at hand? Would you have avoided that fundraiser altogether if there’d been a side door to duck into? And, at the end of the day, would you wildly overestimate your own generosity?
In all likelihood – yes!
ideas42 explains the principles from behavioral science that drive such outcomes in Behavior and Charitable Giving, a review of lab- and field-based experiments, theoretical frameworks, and empirical studies. The wide body of research covered in this report demonstrates that donors are highly responsive to specific features of “the ask”. For example:
- When people are unsure of whether to support a new charity, they’re unlikely to start digging into research and due diligence. Instead, they may simply hold off or choose to give elsewhere. In this context, signals about who else has already given, and how much, can influence donation decisions
- Individuals take on a range of roles as parents, friends, consumers, investors, advocates, artists, and much more. They wear different hats at different times and act accordingly, so encouraging people to think of themselves as generous donors can increase contributions
- Giving is an emotional and empathetic act. Different kinds of information (e.g., photos vs. numbers) can evoke varying levels of empathy, with varying levels of donation following suit
It’s clear that many features of today’s giving environment bias, hinder, or encourage charitable decisions. Insights from behavioral science can help us understand these dynamics and design new experiences that allow donors to give in more informed and personally meaningful ways. And, evidence suggests behavioral solutions could work at scale, with surprising effects tied to simple changes in phrasing or timing.
The preceding is a guest post by Abigail Kim, Senior Associate at the behavioral design firm ideas42. She and her colleagues partner with inspiring organizations and leading academics to improve social impact initiatives through the power of behavioral science.