- Sun, February 13 2011
- Filed under: Fundraising essentials
Keeping up with the theme of generosity, and tomorrow’s Generosity Day, I’m returning today to my series on the psychology of giving. In this ninth post on the fascinating book, The Science of Giving, which covers a range of seminal studies about giving psychology, we’ll look at Deborah Small’s work on what creates—and reduces—social distance.
Small asks in her research, why do we care more about some victims than others? She talks about the fundamental reasons we choose to care about someone in need:
1. People tend to feel more sympathetic toward people closest to us. We are most likely to help people who are family, followed by friends, and aquaintances. This also extends to physical proximity: we care more about people hurting in our town than far away.
2. We also are more sympathetic to people who seem to be like us, or to whom we can relate, even if we don’t know them. This is especially true when we actively imagine ourselves in a victim’s circumstances.
Small discusses the identifiable victim effect, which I covered here on the blog recently. It shows people are more generous to one identifiable victim, even if they don’t personally know that person, than they are to an anonymous person - or millions of people in need.
3. We also care more when the person asking for help has personal experience with the cause they want us to support.
Small offers the following advice to reduce social distance and increase giving:
1. When you talk about a cause, discuss the need in terms of people who are as relatable to the prospective supporter as possible.
2. Stop with the statistics. Tell stories about one person in need.
3. Use social networks to win support for a cause. Have friends ask friends to help. When we know the person asking for money for a cause, we’re more likely to give.