Asking for money? Choose your words carefully
Charities and non-profits are important, but as a skeptic I share a fear with many that certain large organizations have become so large that they require significant overhead to maintain their business and that my donation dollars may not actually be spent as I intend for them to be.
Three University of California researchers recently published a paper in the journal Science describing experiments conducted to study the impact of phrasing on charitable contributions.
First, 449 students were asked to choose an orgnization to donate $100 to based on different criteria. One group was told that their contributions would be matched 1:1, the second was told 1:3 matching, the third was told the donation would become part of a seed fund, and the fourth was told their money would go directly to those who needed it because the overhead requirements of the company were already met. Students were 80% more likely to donate to charities with the fourth type of messaging over the seed funding option, and were 94% more likely to choose one of the matching options.
The second study partnered with two active charities asking for donations by mail from 40,000 people. Similar to the first study, four different types of messages were sent to the recipients: the first was the overhead-free, the second was a matching funds option, the third mentioned seed funding and the fourth was the control group with no special terms. The no-overhead option outperformed the rest with responders 80-84% more likely to donate over the other three options.
Unsurprisingly, donors are more interested in helping the causes they strive to influence than paying for the salaries and other business costs of running the charity. This was perhaps always the case but now in the digital age of research and small-businesses, donors have more access to information than ever before and recognize