Purely Practical SMIT for July: Never Forget People Want Their Latte

This is an elephant design in a latte cappuccino
You think I’d prefer peanuts?
It’s often said that people give to people.  So true.  And people are funny. Our behavior is ruled by emotions much more than logic (remember the difference between irrational humans and logical Vulcans on Star Trek?). With most of us, hope springs eternal.  We seek a brighter future. A better tomorrow. A final frontier.
What does this mean for fundraising?
One of my favorite bloggers, Katya Andreson, recently shared A fundraising tip: Choose hope over hopeless. It’s a great reminder that people don’t always behave as you might intuitively believe they would.  Which is why fundraising is part art and part science (much like latte- making). 

Katya reminds us of research studies showing how people are influenced by subtle factors that affect the ways we gauge impact:

·        When asked if they’d save 4,500 lives in a refugee camp with 11,000 people, they gave more generously than when they thought the camp had 100,000 people.  Why?  The perceived relative impact was bigger.

·        When asked if they’d give $10 million to save 50% of the 20,000 people killed annually by a disease, they chose this option rather than giving the same $10 million to save 20,000 people from a disease that killed 290,000 lives a year.  Again, they’d rather not lose 50% than save more people (i.e, save a lower percentage).
We hate losing things more than we like gaining them.  Psychologist Daniel Kahneman is famous for loss aversion experiments that demonstrate how much people’s economic behavior is guided by a change of reference point. For example, if forced to choose between being given $500 for certain or a 50% chance of winning $1,000, most of us will opt for the sure thing. But if the choice is between losing $500 for sure or a 50% chance of losing $1,000, most of us will take the gamble.
When we suggest to people that they give something up in order to do good, they have a lot of difficulty doing so.  We aren’t motivated by thinking about how things could be worse.  We’re motivated by thinking about how things can be better. 
This is a heart design in a cappuccion latte
Things I love: My latte and saving the world

So, while it’s tempting to suggest to folks that they give up their latte* for a month (how easy is that?!), it’s not the most effective strategy.  Folks don’t want to give up their latte.  And it’s a puny amount. It’s peanuts. What’s inspiring about what they could do with this anyway? Ask them, however, if they’d like to save a life, feed a family, right a wrong, rescue a dog or plant a grove of trees this month?  Now you’re talking!
*Full confession: I’ve been guilty of asking folks to consider what they spend on coffee, dinner and even traffic tickets and root canal. Yet I’ve also tried to relate this to something else they could invest in that would have a more positive, lasting outcome than what they’re being asked to give up.
 Perhaps it’s better to ask them to give up the root canal than the coffee milk shake?!
What do you do to give folks a point of reference?

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About Claire

I’m Claire and I want to help you raise more money, reach more people and build long-lasting relationships with your supporters. Take a look in the archives.


  1. Why can't good people do both?

  2. They can, and that's the point. There should be no 'losing' involved. When people become philanthropic, they usually report a win/win. They've helped someone else and they feel some personal healing as well.

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