Tag Archives: charity

The Statistics of Wikipedia’s Fundraising Campaign

Yes­ter­day, 15th Janu­ary 2011, Wiki­pe­dia cel­eb­rated its tenth birth­day. Just over two weeks before, Wiki­pe­dia was also cel­eb­rat­ing the close of its 2010 fun­drais­ing cam­paign where over six­teen mil­lion dol­lars was raised from over half a mil­lion donors in just fifty days.

The 2010 cam­paign was billed as being data-driv­en, with the Wiki­pe­dia volun­teers “test­ing mes­sages, ban­ners, and land­ing pages & doing it all with an eye on integ­rity in data ana­lys­is”.

Nat­ur­ally, all of the test data, ana­lyses and find­ings are avail­able, provid­ing a fas­cin­at­ing over­view of Wiki­pe­di­a’s large-scale and effect­ive cam­paign. Of par­tic­u­lar interest:

If you’re ever involved in any form of fun­drais­ing (online or off), this data­set is essen­tial reading–as will the planned “Fun­drais­ing Style Guide” that I hope will be released soon.

My favour­ite ban­ner, which got elim­in­ated toward the begin­ning of the cam­paign has to be:

One day people will look back and won­der what it was like not to know.

And if you’re inter­ested in what Jimmy Wales had to say about his face been fea­tured on almost every Wiki­pe­dia page for the dur­a­tion of the cam­paign, BBC’s recent pro­file on the Wiki­pe­dia founder will sat­is­fy your interest.

via @zambonini

Using Charity to Increase Voluntary Payments

If a busi­ness is exper­i­ment­ing with vol­un­tary pri­cing (‘pay-what-you-want’ pri­cing), to increase sales and profits give a por­tion of vol­un­tary pay­ments away to char­ity (and advert­ise the fact, nat­ur­ally).

That’s the con­clu­sion from a study by research­er Aye­let Gneezy com­par­ing a num­ber of pri­cing plans involving–in vari­ous combinations–voluntary pay­ments, fixed prices and char­it­able dona­tions:

At a theme park, Gneezy con­duc­ted a massive study of over 113,000 people who had to choose wheth­er to buy a photo of them­selves on a roller coast­er. They were giv­en one of four pri­cing plans. Under the basic one, when they were asked to pay a flat fee of $12.95 for the photo, only 0.5% of them did so.

When they could pay what they wanted, sales skyrock­eted and 8.4% took a photo, almost 17 times more than before. But on aver­age, the tight-fis­ted cus­tom­ers paid a measly $0.92 for the photo, which barely covered the cost of print­ing and act­ively selling one. […]

When Gneezy told cus­tom­ers that half of the $12.95 price tag would go to char­ity, only 0.57% riders bought a photo – a pathet­ic increase over the stand­ard price plan. […]

But when cus­tom­ers could pay what they wanted in the know­ledge that half of that would go to char­ity, sales and profits went through the roof. Around 4.5% of the cus­tom­ers asked for a photo (up 9 times from the stand­ard price plan), and on aver­age, each one paid $5.33 for the priv­ilege. Even after tak­ing away the char­it­able dona­tions, that still left Gneezy with a decent profit.

The research­er calls this “shared social respons­ib­il­ity” (in com­par­is­on to plain old cor­por­ate social respons­ib­il­ity).

Reasons for Compassion and Charity

Tack­ling the idea that human empathy is self-serving, Dacher Kelt­ner, for UC Berke­ley’s Great­er Good magazine, reviews a num­ber of stud­ies look­ing at why we are com­pas­sion­ate.

In oth­er research by Emory Uni­ver­sity neur­os­cient­ists James Rilling and Gregory Berns, par­ti­cipants were giv­en the chance to help someone else while their brain activ­ity was recor­ded. Help­ing oth­ers triggered activ­ity in […] por­tions of the brain that turn on when people receive rewards or exper­i­ence pleas­ure. This is a rather remark­able find­ing: help­ing oth­ers brings the same pleas­ure we get from the grat­i­fic­a­tion of per­son­al desire.

The brain, then, seems wired up to respond to oth­ers’ suffering—indeed, it makes us feel good when we can alle­vi­ate that suf­fer­ing. But do oth­er parts of the body also sug­gest a bio­lo­gic­al basis for com­pas­sion?

That’s the bio­lo­gic­al view on com­pas­sion, but what about oth­er views? Ryan Sager looks at altru­ism from an evol­u­tion­ary psy­cho­logy stand­point.

Stud­ies seem to indic­ate that per­ceived altru­ism enhances attract­ive­ness. [One study] for instance, finds that “coöperative beha­vi­or increases the per­ceived attract­ive­ness of the cooper­at­or.” (The same study also finds that people are more altru­ist­ic toward people who are attract­ive — but you prob­ably already knew that.) Like­wise, [a] paper in the Brit­ish Journ­al of Psy­cho­logy finds evid­ence that women have a sig­ni­fic­ant pref­er­ence for altru­ist­ic mates, more so than men.

via Arts and Let­ters Daily

Charitable Donations: The Problem of Restricted Funds

By donat­ing funds to dis­aster-spe­cif­ic char­it­able organ­isa­tions and cam­paigns we restrict the use of our funds to the relief of that prob­lem only. This can cause long-last­ing issues for char­it­ies and world­wide dis­aster recov­ery efforts in the future.

To ensure the char­it­able help best, the char­it­able should ensure they give unres­tric­ted funds that are not ear­marked for spe­cif­ic dis­asters.

[Médecins Sans Frontières] has already received enough money over the past three days to keep its Haiti mis­sion run­ning for the best part of the next dec­ade. MSF is behav­ing as eth­ic­ally as it can, and has determ­ined that the vast major­ity of the spike in dona­tions that it’s received in the past few days was inten­ded to be spent in Haiti. It will there­fore ear­mark that money for Haiti, and try to spend it there over the com­ing years, even as oth­er mis­sions, else­where in the world, are still in des­per­ate need of resources. […]

The last time there was a dis­aster on this scale was the Asi­an tsunami, five years ago. And for all its best efforts, the Red Cross has still only spent 83% of its $3.21 bil­lion tsunami budget — which means that it has over half a bil­lion dol­lars left to spend. Not to put too fine a point on it, but that’s money which could be spent in Haiti, if it wer­en’t for the fact that it was ear­marked. […]

If a char­ity is worth sup­port­ing, then it’s worth sup­port­ing with unres­tric­ted funds. Because the last thing any­body wants to see in a couple of years’ time is an unseemly tussle over what happened to today’s Haiti dona­tions, even as oth­er inter­na­tion­al tra­gedies receive much less pub­lic atten­tion.

Rewards Corrupt Altruistic Tendencies

It has been known for dec­ades that infants up to 14 months old will act on altru­ist­ic impulses without reward.

Recent research, fol­low­ing on from a sim­il­ar 1973 study, is start­ing to show that rewards could be respons­ible for the inhib­i­tion of this nat­ur­al desire to help oth­ers—an innate altru­ism.

48 Ger­man tod­dlers aver­aging 20 months of age [were placed] in a room (one at a time) with a par­ent and an exper­i­menter who sat at a table in the corner, appar­ently doing an unre­lated task like pla­cing balls in a bas­ket or clip­ping nap­kins togeth­er. The exper­i­menter pre­ten­ded to acci­dent­ally drop one of the objects on the floor, and reached for it while look­ing at the tod­dler, wait­ing up to 30 seconds for the tod­dler to help her by pick­ing it up. Eight of the chil­dren refused to leave their par­ent, and ten did­n’t com­plete the task, but 36 became reli­able help­ers, return­ing the object to the exper­i­menter 5 times.

The second phase of the experiment—conducted on these 36 chil­dren, each split into vari­ous reward/non-reward groups—discovered that those receiv­ing rewards “helped the exper­i­menter sig­ni­fic­antly less often than either the group that received only praise or the group that received no praise” if the reward was with­drawn.

As Dave Mun­ger asks, Was it the reward, or the betray­al that caused the child’s beha­vi­or to change?