- Mon, June 27 2011
- Filed under: Fundraising essentials
The Freakonomics team recently put the concept of emotion vs. analysis up for debate in fundraising. They tested emotion vs. fact appeals to donors to Freedom from Hunger, with mixed results. In response, I interviewed one expert, Mark Rovner on the topic of emotion vs. analysis in giving. Today, I talk to one of the smartest people I know on this important topic - Greg Ulrich of Hope Consulting - who has done extensive research on what motivates giving. Hope Consulting’s fascinating study, Money for Good, is full of rich and nuanced findings about how donors think.
Katya: So the body of research is pretty clear, right? Donors are driven by feelings, not fact?
Greg: First, I agree with you in that individual donors are predominantly driven by emotions, not an analytic mindset. I thought Mark Rovner put it well in a recent interview with you when he said “There’s a myth, at best partially right, that higher dollar donors are more rational and analytical in their thinking.” Indeed, our research of over 8,000 individual donors shows that individuals rarely research donations, and that holds true for wealthy donors as well as the ‘masses’. Further, when we do see donors research charities, we see that they are usually looking to validate their decision to give to a particular nonprofit. Very seldom do we see donors research to find the ‘best’ nonprofit out of a group. So, based on the data we have gathered, I side with you (and with Mark) that charitable giving is primarily an emotional act for individual donors.
Katya: Great, so that’s settled. It’s that simple?
Greg: I think one thing that can hamper the field are these types of generalizations. We tend to characterize people as a homogeneous group: “donors don’t research”; “the new generation wants information via social media”; etc. What we at Hope Consulting try to do is not to paint the world as black and white, but to identify the different groups within it. In that light we find that about 15% of donors really care about the impact that a nonprofit is going to have (what we call the “High Impact” segment), and we see that about 20% of donors research charities as their ‘norm’. Now, to be clear, these donors aren’t behaving like “mini foundations”, rigorously evaluating organizations and trying to find the highest performing nonprofits out there, but they are open to information and to learning more about nonprofit organizations.
Katya: So how do we accommodate donors who do want this kind of information?
Greg: Our current research, which we are working on in conjunction with GuideStar, is helping us understand how the field can best interact with donors – including those that regularly research charities. Specifically, we are looking at what kinds of information, in what format, and through what channel, will have the most impact on donors’ giving behavior. More on those findings to come soon!