Charitable Rationality

The other day, I was stopped at a light and I saw a couple sitting on a box at the curb.  The woman was holding a sign that said “Hungry.  Homeless.  Please Help.”  The man was holding a cell phone which he was talking on.  Last night, I received my 5th call from the Fraternal Order of Police.  I had just agreed to send them $15 a few weeks ago and now they can’t seem to stop asking me for donations.   Now, I’m not going to say that either of these things is making me not want to be a charitable person, but it certainly makes me question it.
Here are my thoughts…  It’s difficult to raise funds for charitable organizations because of the following:
1.  There are MANY worthy charities – decisions are hard to make and you can’t give to all of them.
2.  People like money, work hard for it, and like to keep it if they have it.  Most don’t have it.
3.  There are people who take advantage of the “nice people”.  Feeling duped – not good.

charity4.  If you give an inch, they’ll take a mile. If you give once, you might be asked to give again.  Fundraisers cling to that because it is difficult to find people who are willing to give.

People are not rational beings, but their patterns of irrationality are consistent, and understanding them is key to effective fundraising.  What sort of ideas do I mean?
  • Small, not big – A personal communication with a smaller audience will make a bigger impact.  Don’t try to mass communicate at the expense of touching people’s hearts.
  • Hopeful, not hopeless – People tend to act on what they believe they can change–If your problem seems intractable, enormous and endless, people won’t be motivated to help.
  • Peer pressure still works (it doesn’t end after high school) – People are more likely to do something if they know other people like them are doing it.

So what do we do about the trust issues we have with charities?  The Charity Navigator can help you choose reputable charitable organizations.  You will have to use your own judgement about individuals asking for help on the street.

Realize that folks making calls to your home do NOT have it easy.  They may have a script to read from, but they are hung up on more often than not and rejection is not exactly fun… even from total strangers.  Try to be polite and listen to the pitch.  If you can’t afford to give, tell them that, wish them luck, and bid them goodbye.  Yes they are interupting your dinner/favorite tv show/nap, but they are doing it for a good reason.

OK… that’s enough of the lecturing.  Go out there and be good!  😉

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