How Charities Can Get More Out of Donors


Wall Street Journal, December 15, 2014


What gets people to give?

It’s a question charities have been grappling with for as long as there have been, well, charities. But researchers in recent years have begun digging deeper into the question, using controlled experiments and psychological testing to better understand why people feel compelled to donate to a good cause—or give it a pass.

Some of their findings turn the conventional wisdom at charities on their head. Lots of charities lean on heart-rending stories to inspire people to give, for instance. But recent research has found that something much less emotional can be just as effective in winning people over—trumpeting the fact that the charity got a gift from a big-name donor. Research has also found that the promise of public recognition works for even the smallest donors, not just people who get their names on buildings.

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