I shared a MarketWatch article on charitable giving yesterday. The writers explain how much donors give based on emotional connection rather than whether our gifts are a “great deal” financially.
They also make another point that goes to the psychology we bring to our efforts to help others.
As internet-based crowdfunding started booming last decade, I wondered why some kinds of fundraising campaigns do so well—2014’s potato salad campaign is one example—but others, focused on vulnerable people, sputter. Campaigns designed to punish one group by giving to another (what I call hate-giving) stir up donors, at least for a while. Meanwhile, less glossy causes that do slow transformative work can struggle to meet expenses.
Here’s one reason why:
Many people donate to help single, identifiable victims, which tend to elicit strong emotions. But statistical victims—those far away and out of sight—don’t evoke the same emotions and levels of support. If instead of concentrating so much on identifiable victims, people supported the thousands of statistical victims around the world, they would likely save many more lives.” —Jonathan Berman, Alixandra Barasch, Emma Levine, and Deborah Small
So people will choose a nearby, visible, individual beneficiary over a removed, inaccessible, group beneficiary.
If this is how our brains work, complex causes can’t sell themselves. They need faces, stories, ambassadors, people who will stand in for the complex and the abstract, people who can connect emotionally with those with the ability and will to support.
Meme and story projects tap into this drive to connect. Tell your story campaigns boost everything from immigrant mobilization to women’s health and climate change impacts on the Pacific.
And if those stories are engaging or arresting, even if for something as mundane as the satisfaction of a hearty potato salad, people will give.
How could this idea can help you decide which causes you give to and which you invite others to fund?