Giving to Feel Good

Giving to Feel Good

By David Allen, Development for Conservation

As you probably know, Alaska residents receive a check in the mail from the State of Alaska representing a distribution of oil royalties earned during the year. It’s called the Permanent Fund Dividend and has rangedfrom $300 to more than $2,000 per person.

What you may not know, but won’t be surprised by, is that Alaskans have the option to direct some or all of the Dividend to charity before they receive it. This is a practice that charities have certainly encouraged – using lots of different means, messages, and media.

What better petri dish could we find for testing and discovery?

Economists from the University of Alaska and the University of Alabama have recently done exactly that. They randomly divided a list of a half million Alaskan residents into thirds. One of the thirds was used as a “control.”The other two thirds received postcards in advance of the commitment deadline.

One of the test thirds received a postcard encouraging recipients to give some or all of the Dividend to charity with the tagline “Make Alaska Better for Everyone.”

The other test third received a postcard encouraging recipients to give some or all of the Dividend to charity with the tagline “Warm Your Heart.”

The results were illuminating:

  • The “Warm Your Heart” group was 31 percent more likely than the control group to give at least some money to charity. The “Make Alaska Better for Everyone” group was not more likely at all.
  • The “Warm Your Heart” group gave 57 percent more to charity than the control group. The “Make Alaska Better for Everyone” group gave about the same.
  • The “Warm Your Heart” group was also more likely to give again the following year than the control group. The “Make Alaska Better for Everyone” group was not more likely at all.

What should we discern from this data? That people are motivated to give to a significant degree because it makes them feel good to do so. When we tell them about what we are doing and what we need, we subtly miss this point. When we tell them about what they are doing, through their giving, we directl feed that part of them that is motivated to give because it feels good.

How can we still use this information this year? In four ways:

  • If you are still planning to send out fundraising mail or email (or postcards!), remember to touch this theme – that it feels good to give to something tangible and real.
  • If you have time, replicate this test with your donors and members.
  • If you are planning to send email at the very end of the year for last minute on-line contributions, consider a “Warm Your Heart”-style message in the subject line.
  • In acknowledgment letters, come back to this feeling good theme. Focus less on accomplishments and project specifics. Share a personal (and authentic!) story of how you feel working or giving or volunteering for the organization and help them feel the same way.

Let me know what you try and what your results are, and I’ll share them here.

Cheers, and have a good week!

-da

PS: Special thanks to Carol for passing along the Alaska information

Photo by Marina Pershina courtesy of Stocksnap.io.

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1 Comment
  • Carol Abrahamzon
    Posted at 09:15h, 11 December

    We are mailing a 2nd YEA letter the last week of December and went with this theme. I’ll let you know how it goes. I agree that the thank you letter should reflect the ask letter and always craft mine that way.