If you had US$1 million to give to charities aiming to eradicate poverty, how would you do it?
Would you support a soup kitchen? A financial literacy program? Educational scholarships? Organizations pressing for policy changes?
I worked for nonprofits for many years before realizing the way I approached solving social problems said more about me than it did about the problem I wanted to solve. If I really wanted to make a difference, I had to think about how I was thinking about the problem. And, if I wanted to make a difference at a broader level, I had to help donors and nonprofit leaders think about how they think.
Nonprofit fundraisers consider many demographic characteristics to explain and predict charitable giving, such as age, gender, income, and marital and parental status. As far as I could tell, no scholars had considered “how people think” as a category worth considering.
My quest led me to obtain my Ph.D. and learn to analyze how an individual’s thinking changes over time. Along the way, I found that how people construct their ideas influences their philanthropic choices, and that how donors think is as important as what they think.
How donors think
Human beings develop increasingly complex ways of making sense of the world over the course of a lifetime. To a large extent, this is intuitive – you probably expect a 20-year-old to think about many things differently than a 50-year-old. How people think, however, is largely unconscious. People are rarely aware of how they are thinking in the moment.
Oftentimes when we think of giving to charity we get stuck on the charity we want to help and the best way we can donate funds to their worthy cause. Do we want to donate on their web site, via their app, on Facebook, or even send them a check? Do they have a special campaign going on? Will there be matching funds? Where does your money go anyway?
There is a lot to consider when donating to a cause that is dear to you. We want to make donating a little easier with three incredibly simple ways you can give to a charity you love.
Now that the giving season is officially over it is also important to set your wheels in motion to give not just at the end of the year when the appeals are loudest, but throughout the year. Giving throughout the year helps space your giving and organize it. It also allows you to easily give to several different charities (for example, a different charity per month) as opposed to hastily finding charities to support in November and December.
There are three start-ups that caught my eye that are making giving easier in this fast-paced environment. One allows you to be a true Slactivist, but also donate real dollars (not your own) to charities. Another allows you to schedule your giving and watch its impact. And the other provides a daily list of charities to support for those who have trouble finding the exact charities that speak to them.