Giving publicly – how psychology can help us understand the success of Dan Smith’s donation drive

Dan Smith’s donation drive initially set off to raise $350,000, with $175,000 available for matching. It ultimately ended up raising $1.7 million for highly cost-effective charties and thus likely exceeded anyone’s expectations by far (including our own). Such a turn of events seems very fortunate, but a case can be made that there was more involved than mere luck. Dan was public about his donations and thus likely inspired others to give more (or to give at all). In this view, the incredible success of the fundraiser is a showcase of how public giving can inspire others to do the same.

Effective Altruists have long encouraged others to be public about their giving because it can help spread information about effective charities and the philosophy of effective giving. Many people find out about effective charities through word of mouth, making public giving a great form of advertisement. There are also many common misconceptions about what makes a charity effective, most notably the overhead myth. Publicly announcing where and why one is giving can educate others about what criteria are (and are not) important to maximize the impact of our donations.

Moreover, giving publicly can encourage others to donate as well, creating stronger norms around giving to charity. Social norms have a powerful effect on one’s behavior. Helping to create these norms could therefore be one of the most impactful effects of one’s donation. In a field experiment, psychology researchers found that if they mentioned that a previous donor had donated $300, new donations were on average $13 higher and donors were more likely to give the following year. Simply knowing that others are giving can encourage all of us to donate more money and donate more often.

Publicly giving can also challenge the norm of self-interest. Americans tend to assume that others are more self-interested than they actually are. In a psychological study conducted by researchers from Princeton University, participants significantly overestimated how much others would favor policies that privilege them over others. Because of this bias, many Americans might feel pressure to not be charitable out of a desire to appear as self-interested as their peers. Individuals can challenge the assumption of self-interest and set better norms around charitable giving by making their donations public.  

Examining Dan Smith’s donation drive with this evidence in mind, it’s plausible that the set up of Dan’s challenge tapped into these psychological factors. Dan Smith announced his donation drive on November 14th, starting off with $175,000 in available matching funds for nine charities for a reach-goal of $350,000. It seems that Dan’s initial post as well as the following post on his motivation helped to create a norm around giving effectively and challenged the notion that people are primarily self-interested. This new norm of altruism was reinforced by the actions of Martin Crowley, Tom Crowley, and an anonymous donor. By consistently announcing his own and his collaborator’s donations on his blog and on social media, Dan Smith likely caused more outside donors to contribute to his drive. Dan Smith’s donation drive became a rallying point for effective giving, allowing him to far exceed the drive’s initial goals.

Further reading

 “Why I not only give what I can but also campaign for Giving What We Can” (GWWC, 2016)

“Why publicly and proudly donating to charity is necessary in the digital revolution” (The Vocal for Medium, 2016)

“To inspire people to give, be public about your donation” (Peter Hurford, 2014)

“How charities can get more out of donors” (Anna Prior for WSJ, 2014)

“Hey Look at Me: The Effect of Giving Circles on Giving” (Dean Karlan and Margaret A. McConnell, 2013)

18 thoughts on “Giving publicly – how psychology can help us understand the success of Dan Smith’s donation drive

  • I and also my friends have been analyzing the nice strategies from the blog and then quickly developed a horrible suspicion I never thanked the site owner for them. Those young boys were definitely as a result passionate to read them and now have without a doubt been enjoying these things. I appreciate you for getting simply kind and then for getting this sort of superb subject matter most people are really desperate to know about. My sincere apologies for not expressing appreciation to earlier.

  • I found your weblog website on google and examine a couple of of your early posts. Proceed to maintain up the very good operate. I simply further up your RSS feed to my MSN Information Reader. Searching for forward to reading extra from you later on!?

  • I intended to draft you that bit of remark just to thank you so much yet again for your personal wonderful solutions you’ve documented in this article. It was so extremely open-handed of people like you to supply easily what some people would’ve offered for sale for an e-book to get some money for themselves, certainly given that you might well have done it in the event you considered necessary. Those solutions additionally served to be the great way to recognize that many people have similar interest just as my very own to grasp much more in respect of this condition. Certainly there are several more pleasurable opportunities in the future for people who scan through your site.

  • A powerful share, I just given this onto a colleague who was doing slightly evaluation on this. And he in truth purchased me breakfast as a result of I found it for him.. smile. So let me reword that: Thnx for the deal with! But yeah Thnkx for spending the time to debate this, I really feel strongly about it and love studying more on this topic. If possible, as you turn into expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more particulars? It is highly useful for me. Massive thumb up for this weblog put up!

  • Leslie Estes^I wear a lot of \”glitter hats\” and received this a s gift from my husband for Christmas. Most of my hats have animal prints with sequins – and I love them all. But this hat has quickly become my favorite! It is even nicer than the picture. It is a beautiful black lace with just the right amount of sequins. The lace is just slightly opaque&#44 just enough but not so transparent that you can see your hair. I get a lot of compliments on this hat.My only problem with it was the brim was curled pretty tightly. I tend to like a flatter brim. No problem – there is clear plastic under the lace so my son suggested I try laying it flat against a counter and applying heat from a hair dryer. I started by not flattening it completely so I wouldn’t crack the plastic. I gently applied more pressure as it heated up and became more flexible. I was finally able to hold it flush against the counter while continuing to apply heat. I used the medium setting on my hair dryer so I wouldn’t risk burning the lace and kept checking it until I got the exact shape I wanted (and to make sure I wasn’t burning it). It took about 10-15 minutes in all. It has held its shape without any problem. Love it!You won’t be disappointed in this hat. :-)April Update: I’ve been wearing this hat for several months now and the sequins are not falling off. Still looks and wears great.~5|

  • R.^The Primus shirt that I purchased came from the seller ‘Priam&#44′ which was the only option available when I had purchased it. Given that it had good reviews&#44 I thought it would be just fine. It took over 3 weeks to be delivered and when I got the package&#44 I saw that it came from China… which is fine&#44 but I was unaware of that. The picture looks like an average style band tee&#44 right? Plus the description says cotton. However&#44 I received some weird fake satin&#44 polyester shirt (like a tapestry or tablecloth material) with no tags and a ridiculously blurry image – seriously? I requested a refund already&#44 but I was really excited and disappointed by this awful shirt.Moral of the story: double check the source/seller that you purchase from because now the seller for this shirt is someone else&#44 not the one that I originally purchased from.*attached are photos&#44 flash is on to show odd material and blurry image~3|Amazon Customer^Really love this shirt! PRIMUS SUCKS!~5|Amazon Customer^This shirt is well made&#44 nice material not too elastic. Has a nice fit too it&#44 it’s alittle on the slim and tight size so if you’re looking for a baggy shirt you man want to go a size up or find a different one.~5|Naut^Not sure what it is&#44 but it seems to fit a little strange around the torso. Seems to be just me&#44 so eh. Print is nice though&#44 thick cotton.~4|Drumhead00^Fits like it should but I know as soon as I throw it in the dryer it’ll shrink a lot unfortunatel .~4|Genevieve Shermn^The shirt is a good quality and it fits just as expected. The design looks good and it’s super comfortable.~5|TheCasshole^I loved it. It’s good quality material. Not that annoying cheap stuff that gets holes in it too easily.~5|Gunslingerfire^Ain’t nothin’ quite like sittin’ round the house&#44 sippin’ on them cans of swine. Kansas wine?~5|Amazon Customer^Excellent!~5|Amazon Customer^Bought this for an 11 year old boy. Kinda small for a grown man.~4|

  • I am commenting to make you understand what a terrific experience my friend’s girl went through using your web site. She came to understand too many things, not to mention what it’s like to possess an amazing coaching mood to make other folks really easily gain knowledge of specified tortuous subject matter. You undoubtedly did more than my expected results. I appreciate you for churning out such necessary, safe, educational and as well as fun guidance on the topic to Gloria.

  • I’m just commenting to make you be aware of of the nice discovery my wife’s princess enjoyed visiting the blog. She even learned so many details, most notably what it is like to have an amazing coaching heart to make certain people quite simply know specified very confusing things. You really exceeded her expectations. Many thanks for delivering such priceless, healthy, explanatory not to mention cool guidance on the topic to Sandra.

  • There are certainly a number of particulars like that to take into consideration. That could be a nice point to bring up. I offer the thoughts above as general inspiration however clearly there are questions like the one you convey up the place an important factor might be working in sincere good faith. I don?t know if greatest practices have emerged around things like that, however I am sure that your job is clearly recognized as a fair game. Each girls and boys really feel the impression of only a moment抯 pleasure, for the remainder of their lives.

  • My wife and i felt ecstatic that Raymond managed to round up his inquiry because of the precious recommendations he came across while using the weblog. It is now and again perplexing just to possibly be giving out ideas which usually other people have been trying to sell. And now we do understand we have got the blog owner to give thanks to for that. These illustrations you have made, the easy web site menu, the friendships you will help to create – it’s got mostly powerful, and it’s really helping our son and the family feel that this subject matter is excellent, which is certainly incredibly important. Thank you for the whole thing!

  • That is the appropriate blog for anyone who desires to search out out about this topic. You understand so much its nearly hard to argue with you (not that I truly would need匟aHa). You definitely put a new spin on a subject thats been written about for years. Great stuff, simply nice!

  • Amazon Customer^Soft material and a good fit. Quick to air dry&#44 which is why I bought them. It’s a good value for the little they cost.~5|Ted^A bit small but I can make it work. Big heads beware. The one size fits all may not mean your big noggin.~4|Katty^The one size is 2xl/3xl..not for the average person…. the ordered size was “one size~3|Tad^Needed to start wearing hats because of melanoma. Liked the style and the Amazon price. I wear it daily at home in the yard and covers well. Well worth the money.~4|John M.^Good looking hat&#44 fits well. The material is very thin and the brim does not hold it’s shape.~4|Matscot^The one size is 2xl/3xl..not for the average person~3|Montana^Husband loves it because it it is so light.~5|Eric Dobson III^Just what I wanted.~5|

  • Thank you for all your valuable work on this web page. Betty loves getting into internet research and it’s easy to understand why. Most of us hear all relating to the powerful mode you present powerful solutions via this web blog and therefore inspire contribution from other ones on the matter while our princess is now understanding a lot of things. Enjoy the rest of the new year. Your conducting a powerful job.

  • I together with my pals were found to be going through the good procedures from the website then suddenly developed a terrible suspicion I never thanked the website owner for those secrets. All the young men became for that reason stimulated to learn them and have in reality been tapping into them. Appreciate your being simply helpful and for having variety of high-quality areas most people are really desirous to discover. My honest apologies for not expressing appreciation to sooner.

  • Can I just say what a aid to search out someone who actually knows what theyre speaking about on the internet. You definitely know how one can bring an issue to light and make it important. More individuals must read this and understand this side of the story. I cant believe youre no more well-liked since you positively have the gift.

  • I precisely wished to thank you so much once again. I am not sure the things I would have undertaken without the creative concepts provided by you about that industry. It has been a real traumatic dilemma for me, however , encountering your specialised technique you processed the issue took me to leap with contentment. I will be grateful for your guidance and in addition hope you really know what a powerful job your are undertaking training most people with the aid of a web site. I am certain you haven’t got to know any of us.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Sign up to receive our guide on effective giving, learn more about our donation advice service, or read our quarterly newsletter.