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Non-Profits Should Tug At The Heart

Read these two solicitations:

1)    Marla gets poor grades. Mostly, this is due to hunger. Her stomach hurts during class, and she can’t remember the answers. Marla’s mother, Janice, works the night shift at Walmart and can’t afford to buy such basic food such as sliced white bread and peanut butter.

2)    Victims of Hurricane Sandy need help. Experts put the estimated dollar value of business revenue lost as a result of Hurricane Sandy at $25,000,000,000. A total of 8,100,000 homes lost power during the storm while as many as 200,000 people were made homeless.

Which scenario most made you want to reach into your pocket or fill out a check—to offer tangible help? More than likely, it was the first of these two situations that moved you enough to make a donation, according to a study by Deborah Small, associate professor of marketing and psychology, at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

Professor Small found that an appeal to the heart, rather than to the rational mind, was more likely to motivate people to give money to charity or offer other tangible assistance. A 2011 article by Leon Neyfakh for the Boston Globe, entitled "Why We Give to Charity,” interprets Small’s study to mean that more information makes it less likely that people will give. But in fact, Neyfakh’s interpretation is wrong.

Look at the above information contained in the two scenarios above. In the first scenario, we learn several individual pieces of information:

1)    Marla gets poor grades.

2)    She is hungry.

3)    Hunger makes her stomach hurt.

4)    The physical distress she suffers as a result of hunger makes it difficult for her to concentrate on her studies.

5)    Marla’s mother’s name is Janice.

6)    Janice is not home nights with her child.

7)    Janice works difficult night hours at a poorly paid job.

8)    Janice can’t afford to purchase basic necessities for her child.

That’s a total of eight pieces of information we learned about Marla and her situation. Whereas, in the second scenario we learned the following:

1)    Hurricane Sandy victims need help.

2)    Lost business revenues equal $25,000,000,000.

3)    8,100,000 homes lost power.

4)    200,000 people were made homeless.

We learned twice as much about Marla than we did about the Hurricane Sandy victims in these two scenarios. Yet still, we were more inclined to help Marla than the victims of Hurricane Sandy as presented above. Clearly, some other factor is having an impact.

It is not learning more about a situation that predisposes us not to help. Rather, it is the way that information is presented.

Take the recent Kars4Kids coat giveaway event, for instance. Learning about all those terrific kids who will no longer have to shiver through the long, harsh winter in thin clothing may just motivate you to donate your car to this car donation charity. It hurts you to think that some children must go without having their basic needs met.  It tugs at your heart.

We don’t give charity with our rational minds, but rather from the heart. More facts and statistics don’t turn us away from an important cause. Instead, it is an appeal to the heart, an earnest entreaty, which generates caring and a true spirit of giving.

Esti Landau is a staff member of Kars 4 Kids, a leading car donation non-profit organization. 

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