The tragic impact of COVID-19 is being felt in every corner of the globe. But amid this crisis, millions of people are stepping up in inspiring ways to help one another. New emergency response funds have been created and existing charities are being retooled to meet the immense needs of the moment. While the scale of this response is necessary, for those who want to give, the innumerable options could be overwhelming, and ultimately, could inhibit their generosity.
Even in normal times, deciding where to give can be difficult. Donors may struggle when choosing between similar charities, finding it hard to compare attributes and relative effectiveness. This experience often leads people to make suboptimal giving decisions or to not choose at all. At a moment when people around the world feel moved to donate, it’s important to make it as easy as possible to follow through.
Fortunately, there are ways to support donors in these moments of uncertainty. Credible and timely guidance can reduce choice overload and increase donors’ confidence in their giving decisions.
One way to offer this guidance to potential donors is using expert-generated lists of charities, which we call “GiveLists.” Creating a list of charities sounds simple—but we know that the way information is presented can impact behavior and ultimate action. To determine how giving behavior changes with different features of GiveLists, we ran nine experiments across seven different online giving platforms.
Our findings show that, on average, donors are more generous when offered the curated guidance. Many people who engaged with the lists donated at significantly higher rates and amounts. In one experiment, the GiveLists led to donations that were 63% larger than those from people who didn’t see the list.
In our report, Lessons from the GiveList, we examine the specific ways that donors respond to expert curation and surface key insights into how the guidance should be delivered to help people follow through on their generous intentions. For others looking to offer curation to donors, we provide specific recommendations for how to build an effective list in the report. We tested a range of features to determine the optimal list length, type of curator, selection methodology, and donation options. Taken together, these best practices can help donors easily and confidently find charities that align with their values and giving goals.
In the current environment, the need for curation has taken on new urgency. The intensity and novelty of the pandemic requires responses that may deviate from how people typically give. For example, the broad-based economic disruption calls for innovative forms of giving that reach new recipients through unique channels. Even the most motivated donors could have trouble navigating these giving opportunities. Expert curation could potentially address this problem and help prospective donors give more quickly, confidently, and effectively – channeling funds to those who need it the most.