I had an idea the other day – I hoped it might be useful to a charity.
Most people agree that there are many charities that do wonderful work for the world. We may also believe that the good of a charity is not only in the acts that it performs for the world, but in the beneficial effects it has on the giver itself.
This idea is designed to increase the number of people who give to charity, to increase the amount that each person gives, and to increase the total amount given to charity. The benefits of this idea are threefold:
First, it benefits the donors, who have a more positive view of themselves, their community, and the world.
Second, it benefits the charities, which have more resources to do good with.
Third, it benefits the recipients of the increased charity.
The idea is simple. Based on the foot-in-the-door technique Dr. Cialdini studied, representatives walk to each house in their local area. They begin the conversation by asking if the residents have given to any charity within the last 5 years. Whatever the answer, they then continue with the response that they are working to increase the number of people who donate to charity in this specific neighborhood. They next ask if the resident would be willing to walk around to all of the homes within a five block radius, asking them to give to charity. A few will say yes. The majority will say no.
Those who say no will then be asked: “Okay, well then is it okay with you if we leave this jar with you and come back in 6 months to pick it up? We’ll donate the money to any charity that you choose.” The jar is labeled “Charity Change” and there is a slot in the top. Many will agree to this request. The representative will then ask for their phone number and email address to schedule the pickup. Before leaving, the representative says, “I recommend that you put the jar wherever you normally put your spare change. By the way, do you have any children who you would like to have a jar to so that you can teach them the value of donating to charity?” Whatever the answer, the representative ends with: “Most people fill their jar within a few months – if you want another jar, please call me and I’ll drop one off.”
Each month the resident is sent an email with details of the local campaign, contrasted with neighborhood, city, state and nationwide results. Three months later, a follow up call is placed asking about their progress so that they can tally the local results (“How full is you r jar – half, 1/3, Full? Do you need another jar?”) One week before six months, the representative calls to schedule a pick-up (“Don’t give you jar to anyone else!”) They ask about the fullness of the jar as well – and also ask if there are mainly pennies and dimes, or if it’s quarters and paper money. “Don’t bother counting it, we will send you a total of what you donated once we count it. You’ll get a receipt for your taxes.”
This program benefits from a number of human characteristics. The large request at the beginning (to canvas the neighborhood) sets up a strong desire to comply with a smaller request, and increases the chance that the resident will agree to keep the jar. The fact that they can choose the charity to receive their donation also increases agreement. Accepting the jar will create a desire to reciprocate the gift of the jar – especially if the jar looks like a gift (a ribbon with a bow, bright colors, etc.) Keeping the jar in their own home increases their sense of ownership over the decision to give to charity which increases their positive emotional response to giving. The follow up calls will increase the amount that they deposit in the jar, and in some cases, will cause them to donate an increased amount or write a check at the end. Some people may have to be cautioned not to give more than they can afford.
Finally, when the jar is picked up, the homeowner is first asked how it went, then asked if they would be willing to canvas the neighborhood, and finally asked if they would be willing to keep another jar. The key to encouraging continued participation is keeping just the right amount of follow up with the resident. Not too much to be pushy, and not so little that the resident thinks they’ve been forgotten. Also critical is a constant emphasis on the positive benefits that the resident is now a part of. Total money raised – pictures of people helped by local donations, etc. Sharing participation percentages in a way that highlights the high numbers of participants (67% of our neighborhood participated in giving to charity through this effort this year! 312 people in your neighborhood gave to charity through this program) is another way to increase participation.
Some of these ideas may seem a little unorthodox, but I feel the worthiness of the goal sanctifies the means. What do you think?