I was recently speaking to a friend about why giving to charity can feel so difficult. We chatted about the Christmas guilt where you realise that you are buying so much and getting so much, yet many people have very little. In response she’d given some money to a charity but it had felt flat. It all reminded me of the recent Seth Godin blog post article Cutting through Singers Paradox. In which he describes Singers Paradox, that saving a child drowning of you is a moral imperative yet saving a child dying on the other side of the world seems less so. The key difference being the immediacy. The impact of seeing a child dying in front of you and the gratitude that you would receive.
So how could a charity/ non profit bring this feeling of immediacy to far away situations? how can people feel that they are making a change by giving. The scale of the problems that charity’s or other non profits are tackling often seem so great that whatever we can give, be it time or money feels too little. Since joining a non profit design organisation, the question of how we could make the act of giving more enjoyable has come up over and over again. Because as Joey from Friends says “there’s no selfless good deed.” We all give because it makes us feel good.
A key part is creating a connection between the act of giving and the end result or the positive change. A type of 1:1 effect. Where the amount donated is linked to a specific result. An organisation that does this brilliantly is Charity: Water. For every donation you make, no matter how big or small, you receive a full breakdown and report of where the money has gone and how it has helped. This creates a connection between with the person you’ve helped, bringing it back to that human connection that we all desire. They have found a way to use information to connect and to create transparency.
Another way of imparting the pleasure of giving I’ve observed is through awareness raising activities. One of the reasons for the popularity of volunteerism and challenges such as the iron man is that they bring that immediacy of helping which seeing a drowning child in front you does. They force us out of our comfort zone and engage us in an action that has a positive reaction. You can see the issue and contribute to solving the problem. Which in turn makes us feel more engaged than just giving money.
Finally recognition is another important part. For example part of the success of the ice bucket challenge was that by nominating 3 friends you gained not only the pleasure of being recognised for the good thing that you were doing but also involved your friends and family in the act of giving. Again this is something that Charity: Water have understood. They encourage you to donate your birthday or wedding or life event, thereby creating a community of givers.
We are intrinsically social beings, with a desire to fit in. So by encouraging a culture of giving by involving those close to us and highlighting the resulting stories of change and impact. I believe that the act of giving can be made more immediate and therefore more engaging and enjoyable.