Charity Hacks: Catalyzing empathy for good

NYTimes reports that wealthy people don’t give as much to charity as lower classes because they’ve lost ability to relate to others’ needs as a result of prioritizing their own. 

However there’s hope and it comes in the form of a hack:

if higher-income people were instructed to imagine themselves as lower class, they became more charitable. If they were primed by, say, watching a sympathy-eliciting video, they became more helpful to others — so much so, in fact, that the difference between their behavior and that of the low-income subjects disappeared. And fascinatingly, the inverse was true as well: when lower-income people were led to think of themselves as upper class, they actually became less altruistic.”

How can this be used to close the empathy gap? It sounds like simply asking someone to project and imagine what it might feel like to be a situation different that their own produces immediate results. So make sure your campaign outreach to donors doesn’t just tell a story but instead asks the target to feel what it would be like.

Overall pretty consistent with the research in Cialdini’s Influence (the book you should buy and read monthly) re: self-identity and behavior.

One thought on “Charity Hacks: Catalyzing empathy for good

  1. That's really quite interesting. I'm wondering, though, if it's helping or hurting the method of thinking that Shawn Ahmed of the Uncultured Project has been using.

    He thinks that, instead of guilt-tripping people into donating, charities should be focusing more on advertising the positive changes that the donated money has made.
    Instead of seeing a little girl with broken teeth next to someone asking for donations, wouldn't someone be more willing to help if they saw a little girl with bright shining teeth? If they see the positive effect that their donations have on these people's lives, couldn't that be a more effective method of gaining funds over pity-advertising?

    It's all food for thought, really. Still a great article and idea you posted. 🙂

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