Your Beneficiary is Too Far Away to Help
March 13, 2023
Kevin Schulman, Founder, DonorVoice and DVCanvass
If I show you a beautiful, scenic picture from 5 feet away you will appreciate and feel it more than if I show it to you 50 feet away.
We humans apply this same logic to charitable giving, assuming more impact on nearby vs. faraway beneficiaries is physical and social distance and they operate independently.
Meaning, if you show me a picture of my own child in need (maximally close socially) I’ll assume my $20 will help her more if she is in Virginia where I live versus California.
Our bias for closer = more impact comes partly from our language. For example, the phrase “the people closest to the CEO” means those people with the biggest effect on CEO decisions.
This is why there is a correlation between proximity to one’s alma mater and giving (after controlling for age, income, graduation year, type of degree, prior giving, etc.). One can influence this natural correlation by describing the University (or any beneficiary) as being nearby and increase giving.
But what if your beneficiary can’t be reasonably described as nearby?
- If you include copy talking about globalization and shrinking distances versus the long, arduous process of delivering supplies you can shorten perceived distance and increase giving.
- You can also use visual cues to suggest closeness. For example, a horizontal arrow or similar visual showing a left to right orientation between the donor and Distant Place X (e.g. your money goes here with an arrow in between) can reduce perceived distance. Using a vertical arrow with Distant Place X on the bottom has the opposite effect.
- Roll with the bias. Instead of asking people to help others, ask them to show support. This changes the mental consideration to match the bias.