Philanthropic Psychology, From IFC 2011

Much of Adrian Sargeant’s work has already been written about in-depth on blogs and in his books, so if you’d like to read more about how social identity can help increase donation size, click here. Otherwise, I’d like to focus more on what was almost a side note in Dr. Sargeant’s presentation that was repeated the next day in Dan Pallotta’s talk.

In the US, the percentage of GDP that is giving in philanthropic gifts has stayed constant right around 2% – for the last 40 years! That statistic has been haunting me since I stumbled across it in one of my old presentations a few weeks ago. We have invested a lot of money in training, we’ve become much more sophisticated, around the world, in how we asks for gifts, and that number has not changed (until Dan Pallotta’s talk I hadn’t realized that trend was fairly consistent around the world).

A new report (in PDF format) was released last week that dives into this in more depth – and provides several ideas to increase giving overall. An immediate suggestion Dr. Sargaent had was the to increase the overall size of the ‘giving pie,’ we need to help make people feel better about giving. It seems so simple. But it is true that ‘buyer’s remorse’ happens in philanthropy overall when gifts aren’t acknowledged or the donor starts feeling like an ATM, only approached when the organization is requesting another gift.

One specific suggestion: when thanking a donor for their gift, use ‘moral words’ like: caring, fair, generous, compassionate, friendly, helpful and kind. For example, ‘thank you for your generous and compassionate gift of $XX.’ It sounds so simple!

What do you think? Have you tried this approach? Let me know how it goes!

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