Increase Donor Happiness by Leveraging This Study

It’s no secret that USEED is a huge advocate for the donor experience. And since we care deeply for the relationship between fundraisers and donors, we are seeking to help institutions worldwide improve this connection through the art of philanthropic peer-to-peer crowdfunding.

I recently came across a study and subsequent publication on giving by Laura B. Aknin from our very own partner, Simon Fraser University, that I felt would be unconscionable not to share it.

Aknin and her team of researchers sought out to determine: Does giving always lead to increased happiness? If not, what factors into the boost of happiness we often feel post-giving?

The relevancy. The findings. The significance!

You need this study in your life.


The experiment

The researchers sought to understand whether knowing the direct impact of a donation can unlock the emotional rewards (such as happiness) of giving. They were worried less about whether focusing on the impact of a gift could be used as a motivational tool, and more about how the donor feels after giving.

Today we’ll focus on their first experiment of two, where participants were presented with one of two real charities: United Nations International Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and an affiliated charity, Spread the Net (STN).

Both charities support vulnerable children in need, though they do differ a bit in their appeals. UNICEF’s charity appeal showcases a wide variety of initiatives for children’s healthcare that any dollar amount could support, while STN notes that the direct impact of $10 would be the ability to purchase a bed net for one child in Africa, which helps stop the spread of malaria.

The participants were told that the charity they were presented with was collecting donations, and then they were given the opportunity to give any dollar amount to that charity.

Finally, the researchers noted how the participants felt after giving to the charity. Who experienced greater happiness? Those who gave to UNICEF? To STN?

Or did both charities produce a similar emotional reward?


The findings


Participants who gave to Spread the Net confirmed an overall higher sense of happiness after giving than those who gave to UNICEF.

On a scale from 1-5, with one being the lowest feeling of happiness and five being the highest, STN scored a 4.32 while UNICEF scored a 3.57. Those who gave to STN not only felt happier, but they also felt they had made a more “positive, meaningful, or significant change for someone else” than the UNICEF donors.

So what can we infer here?

Again, the charities are similar in their missions, and they are both very reputable and respected organizations. The difference laid solely in their charitable appeals. UNICEF did not outline the impact of a gift, while STN did.

This experiment showcased that someone who donates and knows the impact of their gift experiences higher satisfaction than someone whose gift will make an unknown impact.

Note: The researchers also conducted a second experiment where participants were asked to recall a time when they spent $20 on themselves, someone else – in which there was a direct positive impact on that person, or someone else – in which there was no identifiable positive impact on that person. The results of this experiment further supported their first experiment’s findings: that the happiest donors are donors who know the direct, positive impact of their gift.


Impact unlocks donor happiness

Do you want happier donors?

Of course you do!

Crowdfunding is one of the best tools to showcase the impact of a gift on your campus. It is therefore also one of the easiest ways to increase donor satisfaction and happiness in giving to your institution.

The more transparent and thoughtful fundraisers can be about making your donors feel like their gift truly mattered to the betterment of your campus – and more importantly, the people on it – the happier donors will be, and the more likely they will be to give again.

We can’t wait to see how crowdfunding unlocks exponential happiness at your school and beyond!


Interested in learning more? Let's talk