Making People Feel Good About Giving

I just heard about an interesting study on women and charitable giving, by Dr. Jen Shang at the Center of Philanthropy, Indiana University.  Dr. Shang is a philanthropic psychologist who conducted a field study that showed women, when prompted to consider their moral identity (e.g., being kind and caring), increased their giving, whereas the same effect does not occur in men.  Moral identity is the degree to which one believes moral traits are an important part of who they are.  This is typically described as a person who is caring, compassionate, friendly, helpful, and kind.

Shang examined 426 call-in donors during an NPR fundraiser.  After answering the phone with the station’s identifier, experimenters asked: “Are you a new or a renewing member of WFIU?”  In the experimental condition, depending on the donors’ membership status (i.e., new or renewing member), 50 percent of the call-in donors were thanked using two of the morally identifier adjectives described above (is caring, compassionate, friendly, helpful, and kind).  For example, “Thank you for becoming/being a kind and caring WFIU member.”  The dependent variable, donation amount, was then collected in the immediate following question: “How much would you like to pledge today?”

The results were interesting.  Women who were thanked using the “language of moral identity” gave significantly more (21 percent) than those who were thanked without the descriptors in the message.  In men, there were no significant differences between the two methods.

The take-home message is this: if like many small- to medium-sized nonprofit organizations, your members/donors are comprised of mostly women, you may very well see a significant uptick in your giving simply by integrating the “language of morality” into your ‘thank you’ messages.

When women donate to charities, the act of giving actually helps them achieve “who they would like to be”, in terms of their self-image.

Doing good feels good!

Cheryl M. McCormick, Ph.D., Founder and CEO, Ascend Nonprofit Consulting and Executive Coaching, www.ascendnonprofits.comcheryl@ascendnonprofits.com

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