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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Girls Just Want to Raise Funds

Girls Just Want to Raise Funds
Last week, my friends and I were drinking beers and discussing a thought-provoking blog post from Emily Capito, "Nonprofit Piety Won't Change the World," as one of my friends works for a local nonprofit. The post centers on the notion that there are separate sets of economic rules for the nonprofit sector and the for-profit sector. Take one example: it's a commonly held belief that in the for-profit sector, offering good compensation to your leadership and employees well help to attract and retain talent, and ultimately lead to better results for the organization. But try applying that logic to the non-profit sector, and people get upset that so many dollars are going toward overhead, instead of making their way to the people in need. Never mind the fact that higher compensation may draw better talent, who can raise more funds, or craft strategies that would have greater impacts for the recipients of that charity. Donors want to see those dollars going straight to those in need, not to the people working at a nonprofit.

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.)

The Results
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.

52 comments:

  1. Hahahah I also have paltry likes on Facebook (which I can't access right now) but I'll try to remember when I get home!

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    1. Thanks, Sarah! I found your facebook page and liked you back, too.

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    1. It's like a less-cool version of Myspace.

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  3. Well, if Reese wants us to like Done by Forty, I think we should do it. Now you can tick one extra country off the list of countries that like your blog. Because, yes, I represent Romania :))

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    1. Woot! We're international now. Thanks, C!

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  4. Years ago, part of my job was to go out with the sales rep as a double team effort. We visited the HIV practitioners in Los Angeles. Most of the receptionists always made sure the doctors were busy when the reps come by. They just want the food. One time the doctor stopped in to grab a bite of food, noticed the sales rep was super cute and gay and gave us an audience. We noticed an uptick in the clientele base thanks to referrals from him. The word soon got around and every office we visited, the doctors always saw us. Disclaimer: I knew this would happen, and l am sad to say it influenced my decision as to the choice of reps. My bonus was huge. We worked our butts off and always exceeded our numbers. We took off for Vegas after every quarterly bonus, both us and our technicians because we shared. Good times!!!

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    1. No shame in that, Kemkem! Acknowledging that advantage helped your organization and your family's finances. Just imagine the benefit to charities if they took the same approach.

      I was thinking that medical sales reps were a fantastic example of the same tactic: it seems nearly every pharm rep in the world is a pretty woman.

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    2. Pretty and single. I know quite a few MDs who married their pharm reps.

      I love the post. From nonprofit piety and integrity to attractive marketing and social media promotion. It covers it all!

      In fact, you've given me fantastic insights into why I'm a natural fundraiser - I'm a female and I'm blonde. Who would have guessed?

      I have to admit being female and blonde has a lot of perks. I don't really look forward to early wrinkles and thin hair though - which tends to come with my Dutch-Swiss ancestry.

      But, unlike your friend, I am headed out to work it while I can for the nonprofits I serve and will certainly not be shy about hiring attractive fundraisers when I have the opportunity.

      As a follow-up, I think the researchers should look at increases in female donations when firemen make the ask. I swear those boots are nearly entirely filled by women. I would give ten times as much if they took their shirts off and washed my car. It's a win-win situation.

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    3. Ha! The fireman might be the male fundraising equivalent of the pretty blonde woman. Sounds like a great future experiment.

      Thanks, Emily, for providing the inspiration on this post, too! I love that you're using this information to help your organization now. Better to benefit from these nuances than fight against them, right?

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  5. It's human nature, attractive people always gets ahead as its genetic. The attractive ones always survived. That's why I had to get married, I was losing all attractiveness and had to get her while I still could.

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    1. You and me both, Charles. Mrs. Done by Forty got the short end of the stick in our relationship, but like I tell her every morning: there's no going back now, and she is stuck with me.

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    2. Lol Oh my goodness, you two!! I have heard of that study before and honestly I wasn't really shocked. My best friend in High School was beautiful and she got more jobs than anyone I knew. If she didn't like a job she was at she would just quit and a couple days later she'd have a new one. Meanwhile all my boy friends couldn't get hired anywhere.

      Oh yeah, I liked your FB page too.

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    3. Laurie: thanks for the laugh!

      And thanks for the like, Alexa! Your friend sounds like she has it made, though I wonder if that's one of those things that's a curse in disguise. The things that worked for us when we're young might not when we're older, you know?

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  6. You got my like! I've long been burdened by the question of whether people genuinely like me for me or if it's just because of my beauty. It's not easy.

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    1. Thanks, Matt! I can attest from your photos: you are one good looking dude. Superficial as it is, I generally just go to the blog to look at your pretty face.

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  7. I'm not really all that surprised by the findings. I've always studied and worked in male dominated fields and have always seen breasts and blonde hair as an asset and not a liability (you stand out a bit against a field of largely dark haired men). That said, it helps immensely to have the brains to back up the assets that might initially capture someone's attention.

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    1. Good point, Mrs. Pop. I imagine that after a while, the impact of the looks starts to wear off and people are more concerned with results.

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  8. I really like how you said this:

    "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."

    LOL!

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    1. Thanks, Holly! It's great to get a laugh. :)

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  9. DBF - Check the archives of 60 Minutes, because just a few weeks ago they did a feature on a California fund-raising firm run by a former model. She only hires models and it's called something like "Charity's Angels" - a nod to "Charlie's Angels." It operates on the premise that her attractive fundraisers get more results, and they do. She takes a hard line against inappropriate behavior (no drinking, getting too affectionate with the donors), but you can just imagine the requests the women get. Kind of creepy, but to be expected. Signed, just another ten who reads your blog

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    1. I'll definitely check that out Christy, and thanks for the like! I love that she is putting this into action, and still doing so with integrity. I'm sure the recipients of those additional charity dollars aren't that concerned with how attractive the fundraiser was.

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  10. There are a lot of things going on in this post...

    A) I completely agree with The original thoughts about applying traditional market economics to non-profit workplaces. It is certainly odd that we've convinced ourselves that groups who can somehow manage to get 95% of their donations going to directly help their cause are somehow significantly better than an organization helping the same amount or more people, but spend 60% on overhead. Oy.

    B) I think it would be a tough decision for anyone in your friend's position to make. There is some "creepy-factor" and an unethical feeling that comes with having to make that decision. You want your non-profit to do well, but at what cost. I think that has something to do with the stereotypical idealists and people with "integrity" that one associates with non-profits. That's not to say some non-profits aren't scams and full of ass-hats, but for the most part, the people working for these places tend to be very passionate and dedicated (read: ethical and having integrity) to their work. They have to be, because obviously it isn't the great pay and benefits keeping them there. So yes, perhaps it would suit them to be a little more business-like, but I'm skeptical that the currently-held views of non-profits will ever die such that their employees can be paid competitively, and decent money can be spent on fundraising and marketing.

    C) Thank you, I feel like a 10.

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    1. I hear you, MSquared. A holistic view on business practices that applied to both nonprofits and for-profit agencies would be great, but it might be unrealistic. I wonder if it's symbiotic though: if you paid high salaries, would you then get those MBA grads who would be happy to play in the moral gray area to get better results?

      And yeah, you're totally a 10.

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    2. That's how it happened with me (moral gray area manipulator). I found myself in a nonprofit with significant upward mobility and a compensation package I couldn't get at a for-profit with the same level of experience. I ruffled quite a few feathers in my unwillingness to play it safe, but in the process we made enormous and innovative strides in efficient and effective mission delivery, garnering several requests to present our methods to our sector.

      Of course, you can always go too far and attract MBA grads who lack integrity and mission-affinity, which is no good for anyone. But certainly we can come a little closer to the middle.

      Case in point: Several years into my elevated position, I scored a quick and easy offer for $20K more than my current compensation from a for-profit. I was easily adding more than that value to my current employer, but the nonprofit mentality held them back from competing, reinforcing the cycle of nonprofits as training grounds with the nonprofits investing heavily in executives they then give away.

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    3. It's the old brain drain dilemma that a lot of Rust Belt cities claim they are dealing with. They invest in the education of their best and brightest, and then watch them head off to NYC & the Bay Area for big salaries.

      Sometimes I think that the most talented are just bound for more mobility, since they have the opportunity to be mobile. The awesome exec might hop to the for profit and then back to the non-profit later, if only because she can and it seems interesting. Money's probably a big part of that, of course, but I get the feeling that your top performers would hop around, even if salary were equal.

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  11. Haha... one of my favorite posts of yours, good sir. I tried (multiple times) to leave and stop reading due to my A.D.D., but every time I said to myself "one more sentence!" I had to keep reading more. I'm proud to state I lasted all the way to the end, and once we hit Reese I knew I had made the right decision - A.D.D. be damned.

    I am proudly your 21st FB fan!

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    1. Awesome! Just like in real life, I'll always remember my 21st.

      Thanks, J Money -- your comment is one of the best compliments I've gotten. As someone who is similarly and easily distracted, I have to say that...wait, I think someone else liked me on Facebook. Be right back.

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  12. So many giggles today, both in the post and in the comments! I see you're up to a whopping 23 as I'm a day late in getting this! If I had a FB account I would totally like you - can I do that with my Frugal Farmer biz account? I have no idea. I will spread the word about your awesomeness though, in hopes that you'll jump up in your rankings. :-)

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    1. Thanks, Laurie! I know less about Facebook than my grandmother, so I have no idea if the business account works or not. But thanks so much for spreading the word!

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  13. This reminds me of a Jim Gaffigan skit where he says "you ever notice when an attractive stranger goes up to you, you think afterward, "oh, they're so nice!" But when an ugly stranger goes up to you, you think "what does he want?! Get away from me!" I'm not surprised, as well, that looks had an influence. But like Mrs. PoP stated, it's the intrinsic assets like intelligence and drive that retain people's attentions (though with sales, I suppose speaking articulately would be right up there, as well).

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    1. I do, Anna!

      http://www.comedycentral.com/video-clips/fq3bvp/comedy-central-presents-people-who-don-t-drink

      I agree that, long term, looks can't carry you. But maybe that's why they had such a large impact in donations, which are a short term, one time interaction.

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  14. Haha J Money's comment is similar to my experience with this post. Sometimes it's hard to skim posts that have research studies behind them, but I also read every single sentence and also knew I made the right choice when I saw Reese at the bottom! I'm your 26th facebook fan.

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    1. Thanks, David! I really appreciate that, and your comment, too. Thanks for stopping by.

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  15. Love the title DB, great play on words! Heck if Reese thinks it's cool to like DB40, then I am on board, course I think I beat her to it! Cheers!

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    1. Thanks, Jim! I am wary of puns but could not resist.

      I was thinking of tweeting the blog post to Reese just to see if she'd actually like our page, but I don't have the guts.

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    2. That would be awesome DB, you should do it, bet she responds!

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    3. Yes, but HOW will she respond to that meme? :)

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  16. You are hilarious! I'm totally going to hire a good looking blonde female to go door to door to help raise money for budget and the beach. Now where oh where can I find one in LA? Hmm, guess it's not going to happen. :) I'll like yours if you like mine. :) https://www.facebook.com/budgetandthebeach

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    1. Thanks, Tonya! I've liked your page before, but I only have a "blog" account for Facebook, and I'm not entirely sure that does anything when I "like it as my page". Do I need to have a personal account? Maybe this will be the nudge to get out and finally get a FB account for myself.

      I think the door to door thing for Budget & the Beach is a great idea, honestly. You could set up a commission split with the fundraiser...50/50?

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  17. I'm surprised that your friend at the non-profit would not use everything at her disposal to bring in more funding. There is a reason that lots of displays at trade shows are "manned" by attractive women.

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    1. If you knew her, you wouldn't be surprised. She's a pretty moral person, and would find a way to get those extra dollars in some other way.

      It's a whole ends justifying the means debate, you know?

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    2. This mentality would suggest that there is a scarcity of pretty blonde women with good morals and work ethic, allowing one to hire the best of both worlds. Hmmm...perhaps a research highlight for another day.

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    3. True, we're setting up a bit of a false dichotomy between the well qualified-but-unattractive brunette, and the amoral and ineffective pretty blonde. There are probably a ton of candidates who touch all the bases.

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  18. I get the feeling that a large percentage of charity workers will have that integrity which is clearly in most other cases an overwhelmingly positive trait, but in certain cases like this can set them and their efforts back. Which is a bit of a shame!

    I'm devastated to say I can't really follow you on Facebook as I'm flying incognito on my blog due to work purposes! So can't risk people finding me through a like on FB. Many apologies. I'm following you at the Tweety place though :)

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    1. No worries, Firestarter! I totally get the anonymity thing, as I don't want to be found out, either.

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  19. Sure enough, we're all visual.
    Ceter paribus, an average-IQ tall dude with good hair makes has better chances of making CEO than his brilliant but balding and pot-bellied opponent. A cute blonde with a nice rack can raise more money than one not so well-endowed.

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    1. I guess it cuts both ways. I'll never be CEO as I'm under 6 feet, but maybe my height can get me to middle management. :)

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  20. I'd happily follow you on Google+, but I couldn't fine anything under "Done By Forty". Do you have a presence over there as well?

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    1. Hi, Amy! Thank you for your comment -- I'm unfortunately not on Google Plus. It's all I can do to keep up with Twitter, Facebook, & this blog. :)

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