Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Giving with the Head or the Heart?

Two superb blogs recently mentioned conflicting studies relating to whether a donor was more likely to give based upon logic or emotion.  Beth's Blog posted information about a study from Guidestar and Hope Consulting, Money for Good II and The Agitator cited a Boston Globe article Why We Give to Charity examining research behind giving motivations. The two studies arrived at diametrically opposite conclusions as to what drives the giving process – one emotion the other logic.

The Boston Globe article quotes a marketing and psychology professor at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, “What we find is that when people are thinking more deliberatively…they end up being less generous overall.”  The article’s author concludes, “…it appears that giving is driven by emotional motives, rooted in deep impulses, cognitive biases, and even our own selfish needs.”

On the other hand, the Guidestar Money for Good II study claims, “…if nonprofits and information providers are able to provide donors, advisors, and foundation grant-makers with the information that they want, where they want it, these donors would consider shifting up $15 billion in charitable dollars to higher-performing nonprofits.”

I would put forward that these elements are not mutually exclusive. Crafting a strong brand identity, communicating a compelling case for support and being credible is a necessary precursor to even be considered for a charitable gift. The actual giving “trigger” is more likely to be emotionally based in order to be effective. Many annual fund experts know that response to a direct mail appeal declines as a result of data overload. But in order to prepare the way for that all-important second gift, providing additional information that justifies the past gift is essential.  Donor follow-up after the gift is made that includes information claimed important by the Guidestar research such as the nonprofit’s impact and financials would be relevant at that point. This more detailed information will help justify the charitable investment just made and help prepare the way for subsequent gifts.

Data to prepare the way, emotion to overcome inertia, and more information to confirm a good decision -- perhaps it really comes down to a matter of timing. 

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