do your donors want to bless others or themselves?

Findings from a Study about Donor Response to Appeals Based on Benefits to Others or Benefits to Self

Here’s an idea. Take a very large group of potential donors, split them into three groups, and:

1.      Send the first group a fundraising appeal that says they should give because of the good that will come to the charitable recipients. 

2.      Send the second group a fundraising appeal that says they should give because of the good that will come to themselves, the donors.

3.      Don’t send the third group anything, as a control.

This is exactly the study that was done by some scholar/researchers from the University of Chicago, the University of Alaska, and the University of Alabama. The Becker Friedman Institute was involved. Alaska gets a lot of money from oil. Every year every Alaskan gets a check. It might be $300, or $2000, or some other amount, depending on the year. The state has a program with this, called “Pick.Click.Give.” that says hey, you just got this easy money. How about giving some of it to one of these charities – or to a charity of your choice?

So these researchers took the whole state, 290,000 households. One-third got a promo postcard about benefit to self: “Warm your heart.” One-third got a promo postcard about benefit to others: “Make Alaska better for everyone.” The final third, the control group, got no postcard. And?

1.      Those who got a postcard were more likely to give than those who did not. On giving or not giving, there was no great difference between the “benefits to self” group and the “benefits to others” group. So promo campaigns to potential donors get results. No big surprise there.

2.      Those who got the “benefits to self” card gave (on average) 20% more than those who got the “benefits to others” card. The researchers estimate that if all households had received the “benefits to self” card, overall charitable contributions in the state would have been greater by the tidy sum of $500,000. From the report: “… donors in our experiment appear to be motivated more by self-benefit concerns than the well-being of others.”

3.      Those who got the “benefits to self” card were also more likely to give the next year, and tended to give more than others in that second year as well.

So why do people give? How should you spin your appeal to them? Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Indeed.

The moral of this story: don’t be afraid to say, “Give! You’ll find it to be a rewarding experience.”

love, joy, peace … Michael

www.michaeljaffarian.com. Michael is a freelance consultant to nonprofits, with an emphasis on research. Contact him for a free, one-hour consultation. emichaeljaffarian@gmail.com.

Vol. 1 No. 23