A Year in India

The Art of Giving
May 28, 2009, 1:17 pm
Filed under: Development | Tags:

Some interesting studies find that philanthropic donors contribute more when shown a single image of a starving child rather than a photo of multiple in-need children or a photo accompanied by text:

“In one experiment, researchers found that information about the scope of a crisis may dilute the emotional impact of an image of a single victim. Subjects in the experiment were shown a photograph of Rokia, a 7-year-old girl from Mali who was facing starvation.

A second group was shown the same image along with information about the scale of poverty in Africa. The image of Rokia, without the accompanying statistics, won the charity more money.

“It really puts fund raisers in a fix,” said George Loewenstein, an economics and psychology professor at Carnegie Mellon University and one of three researchers who conducted the study. “They want to appeal to the mind and the heart. But if they do, there’s a real risk of undermining the heart.”

In another study, Paul Slovic, a psychology professor at the University of Oregon, found that people were more sympathetic to a single starving child than they were to two children facing the same plight.”

-“New Research Sheds Light on What Works in Charitable Appeals,” by Caroline Preston, The Chronicle Of Philanthropy

These studies show just how powerful individual stories can be, a concept I often think about when writing, filming, and sharing anecdotes about my time in India.