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How to teach people to be generous


One of the responsibilities of every Christian leader is to raise money for the ministry that he or she leads. Anyone who would be a discipler of men must set his heart on creating generous givers. One pastor did it this way:

"Folks. I have good news and bad news. First, the good news: we have all the money we need to build the building we have been praying about and planning for. Now the bad news: the money is still in your pockets."

Some interesting research been done on what makes people respond to a an appeal to a charitable cause. I thought you would find this useful in your ministry.

Mother Teresa once said, “If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.” In 2004, some researchers at Carnegie Mellon University decided to see whether most people act like Mother Teresa.

The researchers wanted to see how people responded to an opportunity to make a charitable contribution to an abstract cause versus a charitable contribution to a single person. They offered participants five dollars to complete a survey about their usage of various technology products. (The survey was irrelevant; the point was to ensure that the participants would have some cash on hand to consider donating to charity.)

When people finished the survey, they received their payment in five one-dollar bills. They also received, unexpectedly, an envelope and a charity-request letter giving them an opportunity to donate some of their money to Save the Children, a charity that focuses on the well-being of children worldwide.

The researchers tested two versions of the request letter. The first version featured statistics about the magnitude of the problems facing children in Africa, such as the following:

  • Food shortages in Malawi are affecting more than 3 million children.

  • In Zambia, severe rainfall deficits have resulted in a 42 percent drop in maize production from 2000. As a result, an estimated 3 million Zambians face hunger.

  • Four million Angolans—one third of the population—have been forced to flee their homes.

  • More than 11 million people in Ethiopia need immediate food assistance.

The other version of the letter gave information about a single young girl:

Any money that you donate will go to Rokia, a seven-year-old girl from Mali, Africa. Rokia is desperately poor and faces the threat of severe hunger or even starvation. Her life will be changed for the better as a result of your financial gift. With your support, and the support of other caring sponsors, Save the Children will work with Rokia’s family and other members of the community to help feed and educate her and provide basic medical care and hygiene education.

The researchers gave participants one of the two different letters, then left them alone. They chose how much money, if any, to put back into the envelope, then they sealed the envelope and handed it back to a researcher.

On average, the people who read the statistics contributed $1.14. The people who read about Rokia contributed $2.38—more than twice as much. It seems that most people have something in common with Mother Teresa: When it comes to our hearts, one individual trumps the masses. -- Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die (Chip Heath and Dan Heath)




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