let’s encourage impulse philanthropy

The Beauty of Small, Quick Donations and How to Snag Them

Usually I’m a disciplined shopper. I go to the grocery store with a list, and only buy what’s on the list. So how did I manage to come home last night with a totally-unnecessary and seriously-unhealthy bag of crunchy, cheesy Cheetos? It was an impulse buy. I saw it, I felt a good feeling about it, and stuck it in my cart without hardly thinking.

Like last week when I was on Facebook and up comes this ad for a cool T-shirt. I have a lot of T-shirts, many of which are just as cool or cooler. But I ordered that one anyhow. On impulse. (It is in fact very cool, BTW, but that’s not the point).  

The retail world has refined the business of impulse purchases to a high science. I’m sure there are high-level teams of PhD behavioral psychologists and brain scientists out there, working on how to get us to make quick purchases that we hardly think about, of things we don’t need.

How about impulse philanthropy? How about encouraging small, quick donations that don’t come from a place of extensive and careful analysis, but that just come from the feeling of the moment? How about putting ads out there that are not about a broader and more serious commitment to the cause, but are just one small, cool, interesting, exciting, little bit, to give to?

This goes against traditional philanthropy advice. Traditional philanthropy advice says your giving will have greater impact if you concentrate your donations to a smaller number of causes that you invest in, instead of spreading little donations all over the place. Yes, there’s some wisdom to that. But there’s also a case to be made for impulse philanthropy. Consider:

1.    It feels good to make that impulse gift, and hey, whatever makes giving feel good, is good.

2.    It might just introduce the giver to an organization, or a cause, that could become important to them. It might just start a beautiful, long-term relationship.

3.    It builds the spirit of generosity. Those open-the-wallet muscles get stronger with more frequent use.

4.    Every dollar counts. Small donations add up.

So for starters, as nonprofit leaders, let’s let impulse philanthropy be a part of our own giving habits. Then let’s talk to our fundraising departments about the kinds of offers we can put out there to snag the quick, easy, impulse donation.

I’ll admit the Cheetos was a dumb purchase. The T-shirt, not really necessary. But any donation to a good nonprofit cause is, well, a donation to a good nonprofit cause.

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. 32