When I first contemplated the topic of what inspires Americans to give to a cause, my initial thoughts were that Americans donated to nonprofit charities based upon their emotions.
For instance, people may see how climate change impacted the environment around them so they gave towards an organization like the American Forest Foundation to help combat against the negative effects of climate change.
Or they read a story about the startling numbers of American children facing childhood obesity and they supported a program such as Project Learning Tree, which gets children outdoors and moving.
But according to research conducted on this topic, emotions donít play as much of a factor as we think. I recently read an interesting piece from Robin Hood, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Strategy Officer of Network for Good. Robin worked with the group Influence at Work on a study with surprising findings about inspiring disaster relief donations.
Apparently, people are more likely to donate to storm relief efforts if their name sounds similar to the name of the storm. I am not making this up: "People were more likely to donate if the initial of their first name matched the name given to the hurricane. For example, those whose names began with the letter R, such as Robert or Rosemary, were 260 percent more likely to donate to the Hurricane Rita relief appeal than those whose name didnít begin with the letter R. A similar effect was noted after Hurricane Katrina with folks whose name starts with a K significantly more motivated to donate."
By the way, I donated to Hurricane Katrina, I did not know at the time but maybe it was a subconscious thing because my nickname is Kat, so there you goÖ
This research reminds me of studies I read that people choose professions close to their names. Do you know that the most common name for dentists is Dennis?
Maybe itís impractical to start naming hurricanes by John Smith, but in all seriousness there is a lesson here. As Influence points out, we always pay more attention to anything involving our name. Youíve experienced this in a noisy room where youíre tuning out conversation--until you hear your name mentioned.
Therefore, donít be surprised if you see AFFís next fundraising appeal with John Doe or Susie Q as the title. Humor aside, AFF is fortunate that our donors give based on the work that we do. Our donors are hard-working, everyday Americans who believe in our mission and the value that we bring to their communities.
AFF is not about popularity or catch phrases; our mission is straight forward and simple. We work on-the-ground with families, educators, and elected officials to promote stewardship and protect our nation's forest heritage.
Dinetta Parrott is a grants manager for the American Forest Foundation.