Rich and Co.

Reminders of Potential Losses Are Most Motivating

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“Bloodthirsty Charities” by Kevin Charles Redmon March 14, 2013
Have you given blood lately? Donated to a local non-profit? Do you remember the appeal that moved you to open your vein or pocketbook?

Odds are, it was a dire message (“Help prevent a needless death”) rather than a cheerful one (“Help save an innocent life”).  That’s the key finding from a collaborative study between the Red Cross and researchers at Northwestern and the University of Virginia….humanity’s well-documented “loss aversion” is a far more powerful motivator than “gain promotion” in giving.Charitable giving—whether dollars or blood cells—has fallen steeply in the recession, and non-profits across the country are struggling to keep their balance sheets in the black and their blood banks in the red…non-profit world’s winners and losers differed in how they framed their public appeals.

  • “The appeals of all of the six top charities that experienced donation decreases stressed their recipients’ need for gains
  • “In sharp contrast…the appeals of the four top charities that experienced donation increases all focused on their recipients’ losses if help was not forthcoming…

…ad agencies and public health officials already rely on loss aversion to sharpen their messaging. (Women who are warned of the dangers of not performing self breast-exams, for example, are better at remembering to check for lumps than women who are reminded of a self-exam’s benefits.)

The authors, in partnership with the Red Cross, decided to test the impact of “loss” vs. “gain” messaging in a real-world setting: a blood drive….students who’d received the “prevent a death” message were two-thirds more likely to make a donation than students who’d received either the “save a life” or control messages.”


Written by Rich and Co.

April 23, 2013 at 4:59 pm

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