Suffice it to say that we are on board with the idea that nonprofits, and the people they serve, might be better off if some of the traditional views on market economics were applied to the nonprofit sector. (For example, spending money on marketing and fundraising is a good thing, and ultimately can result in more money going to the charity's cause, even if a larger percentage of funds are now going towards overhead.)
And that reminded me of an old Freakonomics podcast: "How to Raise Money Without Killing a Kitten." In the podcast (the segment starts at the 10:00 minute mark), Stephen Dubner interviews University of Chicago Economist John List about an experiment he and several other academics performed several years ago. The authors wanted to answer a couple questions about fundraising efforts, one of which was whether attractive people would raise more money for charity. The experiment involved a group of undergraduate students going door to door, soliciting funds. Pictures were taken of those students, then sent to 152 students at another university, who then rated the fundraisers' attractiveness on a scale of 1-10 (with an average ranking assigned to each fundraiser). So, how did those students who were rated as attractive perform compared to, say, an average looking person? (For those who'd like to read the research, you can find the paper here.)
Somewhat unsurprisingly, attractive women raised the most money out of all the solicitors. John List noted on the podcast that a woman rated a "9" raised roughly 100% more money than a woman rated as a "6". (Please do not judge the author for this crude ranking system: I am only the messenger, and I am confident that my readers are all tens, anyway.) And blondes raised more money than women of other hair colors. The increased funds came from one source: men answering the door (again, not a shock). Women donors were not swayed by the attractiveness of the fundraiser: whether male or female, attractive or not, it had no significant effect on their giving. (The lesson: send Mrs. Done by Forty when someone rings the doorbell.)
When I was discussing this podcast with my friend who works at a nonprofit, I asked if she might be influenced by the results in her day-to-day work. She is involved with volunteers and fundraising efforts, and she might be burdened with decisions that could bring this study into play. If she had a group of volunteers, would she be tempted to task the attractive women with fundraising efforts, while asking the so-so looking guys and girls to do other activities, like setting up tables and booths on event days? Or, if job applicants with roughly equal qualifications applied for a position, would she lean towards hiring the attractive blonde?
My friend is, unfortunately, one of those people who has "integrity", so she wouldn't be comfortable letting this data influence her decisions. She said she would remain unbiased, which is great for living life properly and upholding values in the work place, but doesn't make for very good content on my blog. Selfish as she is, she wasn't willing to perform a natural experiment in her workplace and put all the pretty girls on the fundraising team. Some people.
On a serious note, this sort of integrity would seem to have a negative impact on charities. Put bluntly, a 100% increase in per-person fundraising efforts is nothing to sneeze at. Marketing agencies have known for a long time that a pretty girl in an ad can help separate a man from his money. And charities, by definition, are in need of donor money so they can perform good deeds for society. By choosing to ignore these authors' findings, charities might raise fewer funds, and the positive impact those charities could make would be lessened. Isn't there an argument for the greater good?
Luckily for us, the Done by Forty blog is not tethered by such morality. Today, I want to tell you about an issue that we need your help with. We have a sad number of Facebook likes for the blog: only sixteen. Sixteen people in the entire world. We feel like we write good content: content that can actually help people improve their financial lives, and we want to increase the reach of this blog. To help us in our cause, here is our close friend, Reese Witherspoon, with an important message.
Thanks, Reese. And after you click the "Like" button above, you are going to feel good about yourself. Not just because you are joining the ranks of the equally talented and beautiful Reese Witherspoon, but also because doing so will show the world that you are a good person. A decent human being, and smart, and, let's be honest, downright good looking, too. All it takes is a click of the mouse. Won't you help, today?
*Photo is from Genevieve719 at Flickr Creative Commons.