Study a Lot - and Raise More!

Author: Melissa S. Brown

Source: Advancing Philanthropy (Spring 2015). (Reposted with permission)

Date: Spring 2015

The Association for Fundraising Professionals (AFP) recently published Study a Lot - and Raise More in Advancing Philanthropy (Spring 2015). The article summarizes practical takeaways from the SPI Annual Conference 2014.


beyond the ice bucket challengeThe Windy City hosted an infrequent combo recently: academic researchers and fundraising professionals gathered to share what works in fundraising and why. The Science of Philanthropy Initiative (SPI) at the University of Chicago organized the sessions, which gave fundraisers an opportunity to, shall we say, spy on what researchers do and think about fundraising and provided scholars an opportunity to learn from fundraisers what matters in their work.

John List, an SPI co-founder and economist at the University of Chicago, has studied giving for more than a decade. Through SPI, he and other researchers have uncovered evidence that may help your annual-fund campaign raise more. In summary, key points from the research are:

  • People like the feeling they get when they give. Emphasize the “warm glow” of giving, especially when inviting new donors to join your cause.
  • People hate feeling that they have been duped. For new donors, in particular, do not tell them that 100 percent of their contribution will fund program delivery when, in fact, it will be used for overhead. Instead, consider finding a major gift to cover overhead.
  • People like others to know that they contributed, so recognize donors.
  • People look at what others are doing, so share information that provides an “anchor,” or reference point, about how much others have given, especially for new donors.
  • More people will give a “round amount,” such as $100 instead of $95, even though the latter is less.
  • People like choice. If you can, give renewal donors a choice of at least two options.

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