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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Why Some Folks Give and Others Don't

I've written elsewhere ("How Religion Benefits Everyone, Even Nonbelievers") that it is well documented that people of faith are more likely to give to and volunteer for both religious AND secular organizations than are non-religious folks (see e.g., "Who Really Cares?" by Arthur Brooks, "America's Blessings" by Rodney Stark, and "The Righteous Mind" by Jonathan Haidt). However, even within both groups, some give and volunteer more than others. Moreover, some types of solicitations (and solicitors) are more successful than others. In fact, scholars who have studied this have found that solicitations that make people feel good about themselves (warm fuzzes), that appeal to guilt and/or social pressure (e.g., Girl Scout cookies), that offer swag (e.g., t-shirts, mugs) in return for their donation, and/or offer the chance to win a prize (e.g., a trip) are more successful than those that don't. Interestingly, they've also found that attractive women (but not attractive men) are more successful in door-to-door solicitations than others.

All this is the subject of a recent Freakonomics podcast ("How to Raise Money Without Killing a Kitten"), which you can listen to at the Freakonomics website (see the above link -- you can also find the transcript there) or download from iTunes. Here's a brief description of the podcast:
In this podcast you’ll hear the economist John List, who is no stranger to this blog’s readers, give us the gospel of fundraising — what works, what doesn’t, and why. List and economist Uri Gneezy write about the science of charitable giving in their new book The Why Axis: Hidden Motives and the Undiscovered Economics of Everyday Life.


  1. Isn't it a bit disheartening (though not unexpected) that he recommends attractive females

  2. Yes, it is. Pretty funny how he tested for it.