Appealing To Their Sense Of Personal Power Encourages Them To Give More Money To Charity
Appealing to wealthy people’s sense of personal power rather than their community spirit seems to encourage them to give more money to charity.
Psychologists already knew that rich people value their individual ability to control events more than lower-income earners do, says Ashley Whillans at Harvard University. Appealing to this independent mindset encouraged wealthy people to donate more money to a charity aimed at ending poverty, found Whillans and her colleagues. That work was published in 2017.
The team has now tested whether fundraising appeals framed in this way increased the generosity of wealthy graduates of an Ivy League business school in the US, whose average starting salaries were in excess of $100,000 per year. The researchers sent letters to more than 12,000 alumni asking them to donate to the school.
The letters started with one of two sets of words to appeal for their support: “Sometimes, one person needs to come forward and take individual action” or “sometimes, one community needs to come forward and support a common goal”.
Among the 4% who donated, those who received the message that focused on individual action gave an average of $432. In contrast, those who got the more community-minded appeal contributed $270 on average.
We think that giving highincome earners a sense of control makes them want to give more. “We think that giving high-income earners a sense of control makes them want to give more,” says Whillans. She believes that fundraising organisations could use these findings to boost their revenue. “Charities often use messages that highlight how positive the action is, like, ‘it’s so important to help the environment’, but they may benefit from tailoring their messages to people's self-interested motivations instead,” she says.
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