Why don’t we talk about giving?

“I gave some money to a charity the other day, and it was just wonderful. Apparently, my donation helped them to [do something amazing]. I’m so proud and happy.”

Do you ever have conversations like this? I don’t. I realised recently that I’ve literally never had a single social conversation about a personal giving experience, ever, despite knowing loads of people who give, and even having been in charities & philanthropy for over 20 years.

Isn’t that weird?

It’s not like nobody’s got any experience of giving: fully 56% of us give in any given month, and even more volunteer regularly according to the Cabinet Office.

And it’s even weirder when you consider that giving makes us so happy – it’s the best thing known to mankind for cheering us up, with only one exception (which is dancing: which people talk about all the time). Interestingly, clever old ActionAid, in its new donor-recruitment adverts, cite neither the needs (i.e. the problem they address) nor their results (i.e, how good they are at solving it), but focus on the rewarding experience for the donor.

I’d be really interested to hear your experiences of talking about giving.

  • Do you talk socially about it? How do those conversations start? What reactions do you get – e.g. are people inspired, do they feel you’re using it to signal your wealth?
  • Do people start conversations with you about their giving? How do those conversations start?
  • And if you don’t, what’s holding you back?

It’s important to talk about our giving because we know about the importance of social norms – people do what they see other people doing. [Hence why celebrities get paid to use certain mobile phones in public, and TV producers get paid to ‘place’ products in programmes.]

So if we’re to build a culture of giving – and even to leverage our own giving by inspiring others to follow – we need to talk. On platforms and donor events for sure, but also to our neighbours, friends and colleagues.

Tell me your experiences – we can learn together.

First published by The Funding Network, March 2011

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