- Social Media
- Active Citizenship
- Good Giving
- Corporate Responsibility
- Be Fearless
On a recent trip to my parents’ hometown, I checked out my Grandmother’s refrigerator. As usual, its metal door was plastered with the latest photographs of grandkids, and now, great-grandkids. Back in the day, there was always one more photo—of the kid she was sponsoring from Save the Children.
Now, my grandmother is not what anybody would call a philanthropist. A farmer’s daughter, she raised nine kids, and there wasn’t a lot of cash to spare. Which made it all the more remarkable that a nonprofit—and an international one at that—sparked the interests of the Wisconsin farm girls of the world. How did they do it?
Fundraising gurus will tell you it’s not by appealing to reason.
In recent research, Wendy Liu and Jennifer Aaker got thinking about giving and volunteering and the way our brain works.
Previous studies had indicated that in our brains, time is associated with concepts of emotional meaning, whereas money is tied to economic utility. So Professors Liu and Aaker wondered if simply asking donors about volunteering might move them into an emotional mindset—and even impact how much they donated.
In what they call the “time-ask effect”, the professors found that asking people to volunteer time to a charity led to higher monetary contributions. Their experiments highlight a few points of interest to fundraisers and online campaigns:
- Asking people if they’d be interested in volunteering did lead to increased donations, provided the time-ask was made before the money-ask. The professors suspect the volunteering question kicks off “goals of emotional well-being and beliefs involving personal happiness”—happiness thinking
- A money-ask alone did much worse. Previous studies indicate that thinking about money tends to make people “less helpful and more distant with others”, which may be at play here
- People prefer to give time rather than money when a charitable cause has high personal significance
Back on Grandmother’s refrigerator, I’d say that the triumph of those marketing folks was the way they gave her a photo to put on the refrigerator—and helped her connect her cash with an emotional reward.