Blog 9: What drives charitable giving?


Why do people donate money to charitable organizations?

Have you responded to the urgent call for donations for hungry Africa last week?

What convinced you to give?

How did you decide the amount you wanted to spend? And, do you try and inspire others to also give to Africa?

You may think you are an independent agent who acts out of free will and by rational choice, but social sciences have continuously proven you wrong. In a literature review of 500 empirical studies of philanthropy, Bekkers and Wiepking (2011) share interesting insights on the eight mechanisms that drive charitable giving. Let me retrieve a few snippets that may forever change the way you go about doing-good.

  • Did you know charitable giving is seen as ‘participation’? We engage with a cause because we like the tangible (for instance: a price in a lottery) and, or intangible (for instance: you feel glad to be able to help) rewards that it may bring us.
  • A request for a ‘generous amount’ rather than a specific amount decreases the likelihood that a gift will be made in door-to-door solicitations. People want a reference point that will help them to feel they are part of the giving community, even if this amount of reference is a higher cost than they had planned for. And they feel most like giving when the weather is nice.
  • People tend to like to gain a reputation for giving. All kinds of actions of ‘being watched’ facilitate giving. For instance, research has shown that looking potential in the eye during door-to-door solicitations raised more money. Also, handing over money in person instead of leaving it in an envelope increases the donated amount. Finally, people seem more willing to give to a televised cause when names of pledging donors are being shown on screen.

Fascinating, isn’t it?

Just one more out of the richness of data discussed.

Maybe this is no surprise.

People are more generous after they have spent some time thinking about their own death, about an act of forgiveness, or about things in life for which they are grateful.

When solicitors label potential donors as ‘helpers’ this promotes their helping behavior.

In finding funding, and this, of course, is my conclusion :-), you need to be community- based.

  • You need to engage people in your cause and give them a feeling of respect and acknowledgement for their contribution.
  • You need to help them in giving and develop a ‘good feeling’ by offering the kinds of benefits they are looking for.
  • To stimulate charitable giving you need to know what to give to build a ‘giving relationship’.