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 “cooperative 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?