One of the strongest results from the field and the research is the impact and the power of "the ask". While many, many people give because they are altruistic and generous, we see a great impact of social pressure and social norms on giving behavior. With a greater number of people than ever online, asking friends, and being asked by friends, is becoming easier. Enter Giving Tuesday – a movement to create a national day of giving, using social media as its stage.
Giving Tuesday was a great success last year. According to their website, charitable giving rose by 53% on Giving Tuesday in 2012 relative to the year prior. And I have no doubt that Giving Tuesday will be a success in years to come. The movement harnesses key behavioral principles that economists and psychologists have documented in past years. First, social norms are extremely important. If I see my friends give, then I am more likely to give. Social pressure plays a role too – if my friend asks me to give, I would feel guilty to say no. Second, we know that givers feel a 'warm glow' or satisfaction from the gift itself. What better way to harness that 'warm glow' than through giving a donation on Giving Tuesday?
However, Giving Tuesday raises one big open question: what will be its effect on long-term gifts? As we see it, two things could happen. On one hand, we could argue that donors will shift their giving throughout the year to giving on only one day – thereby negating any positive effect of the holiday. On the other hand, we could predict an increase in the size of the 'charitable pie' – more asks should generate greater revenue. It will take more data to know for sure, but personally, I’m leaning towards an expansion of the pie. We’ve seen in our research the importance that the ask plays, and we’ve seen giving campaigns fail when non-profits do not ask enough. We’ve also seen great impact that social media campaigns have had in other facets of the market – for example, in the elections.
The Science of Philanthropy Initiative has a mission of answering many big questions, though the biggest question of them all may be: what happens when charities compete? We are using field experimentation to learn the answers.
Connect with us to keep up to date with our findings!