Telling donors that giving feels good

by guest blogger George Crankovic, Senior Writer at TrueSense Marketing.

It’s no secret that giving confers all kinds of benefits to donors. People who give are generally happier, healthier, and even wealthier than non-givers.

If that’s true, then how would donors react if we pointed out those benefits in an appeal? Will speaking directly to donors’ self-interest about the benefits of giving persuade them to give — or maybe to give more?

One recent study from the Harvard Business School, Feeling Good about Giving: The Benefits (and Costs) of Self-Interested Charitable Behavior, suggests that laying out the benefits of giving just might work.

As a first step, researchers explored whether a virtuous cycle exists between happiness and giving — that is, does giving cause the happiness that encourages donors to give?

The subjects were asked to recall a time when they spent money on themselves or others, and report their happiness. Then each subject was offered the choice in future spending that would make them the happiest. Turns out, the people who felt happy by recalling a previous expenditure for someone else were more likely to donate in the future. So, the virtuous cycle does seem to exist.

Next, researchers explored whether laying out the benefits of giving would motivate people to give. Researchers surveyed 1,000 readers of the New York Times who had read an article about the link between giving and happiness. Compared to other studies, the people in this group reported devoting as much as 40% of their spending on others — a higher than average rate — suggesting that these people gave more because they were aware of the benefits of giving.

Other research suggests that adding in motivators like happiness from giving will divert donors’ attention from the need and lessen their impulse to give.

Still, promoting the benefits of giving is worth testing to see how your donors will react. If you’re bold, come right out and link greater happiness with a gift to your nonprofit. If you’re cautious, use subtle suggestions. And see whether or how much this added dimension moves your donors.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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About the blogger

Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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