How looking for donors changed how I look for friends

I’ve been thinking about friendships lately. (I think this is one of my perennial wonderings, it turns out. Friendships are weird.) I had a couple hard situations where I felt really let down, and I started to question what I was looking for in friendships and why I was investing in friendships that were ultimately…More

Why I stopped donating to Compassion, International

Last month I stopped donating to Compassion, International. For a little preamble, I work for a nonprofit. I feel passionately about the value of nonprofit organizations, about the work nonprofit folks do for their communities and the world, and I am committed to making a good career out of nonprofit work as long as I…More

White supremacy in philanthropy

When I was ruminating over the anti-Black biases of my chosen spaces, of the Big Three – philosophy, conservation, and philanthropy — I had a hard time “figuring out” philanthropy. I do believe that everything in the US is touched by, and partially formed by, white supremacy, so I knew there is something problematic in…More

Your Brain on Philanthropy: Relative Comparison biases

Earlier this year (just days before the State of Hawaii was issued a shelter-in-place order) I attended a Planned Giving seminar. The main speaker was Russell James, and wow. I was all a-tingle with nerdy joy at the content and depth of his research. He works for Texas Tech and researches the psychological influences on…More

Your Brain on Philanthropy: the Sunk Cost Fallacy

I’m going to switch gears a little here. Where as previously in this series I’ve been focusing on the ways donors and prospects perceive financial opportunities and situations and how fundraisers can be aware of those cognitive tendencies so as to avoid making unnecessary mistakes (and so as to being our best, most effective fundraising…More

Your Brain on Philanthropy: Availability Heuristic

Isn’t “heuristic” such an intellectual-sounding word?! I feel erudite. I also love the way it sounds, considering what it means. A heuristic is a way of approaching a question or problem that values the practical and easy over the accurate. Basically, it’s our brain jumping to conclusions, rather than taking a beat and doing the…More

Your Brain on Philanthropy: Compassion Fade

Compassion is a major motivator in philanthropic giving. Sure, some people give because they need or want the associated tax break, but most people, when asked to explain why they give to charity, say they give for much more personal reasons. In an interview of 700 Britons, Charities Aid Foundation found that people say they…More

Your Brain on Philanthropy: Cognitive Ease

I was chafing a bit the other day over the realization that in order to be most effective at my job, I need to talk about giving and gifts in the simplest way possible. I’ve learned so much about the complexities of ways to donate, of why people donate, of the great scientific work being…More

Your Brain on Philanthropy: Denomination Effect

Fundraisers tend to categorize donors in three ways, either as annual donors, major gift donors, or legacy donors. Annual donors are those who give smaller amounts more frequently — monthly, annually, or when a giving campaign comes calling (think United Way or the Girl Scouts). These gifts usually go to the general fund or support…More

Your Brain on Philanthropy: Anchoring Effect

I was taking a bath when I read about the Anchoring Effect. (I’m basically Archimedes.) It hit me so hard I actually stopped reading, put my book on the floor, and stared into my Rosemary-Mint scented bubbles for a long time. Holy crap. I’ve been doing this wrong since I started fundraising. My failure to…More