Times (UK): 'Jam tomorrow is easier to give away'

2 min read

A nice mention in the Times.

Generosity increases dramatically if people are asked to donate tomorrow’s bonus or inheritance cheque rather than money they already have, academics have found.

Once people have the cash in their hand, or know it is in their bank account, they are more reluctant to let go of it. The study by the University of Exeter business school could influence how charities approach fundraising.

It found that people donated between a half and a third more to charity if they were imminently expecting a bonus or windfall, compared with those who had already received the money.

Our work focuses on asking people to commit to donate ‘if they win a bonus’ versus asking people who have just won a bonus, and we find some evidence suggesting the former may work better. As usual, newspapers (over)state results more bluntly than academics, but it’s not too off. The discussion also mentions our earlier paper finding people are less generous with cash on their desk than with money in their account on a screen. The ‘tomorrow’ angle jibes with Anna Breman’s work.

The headline references Alice in Wonderland Queen who forever promises “jam to-morrow and jam yesterday – but never jam to-day”. However, we hope (and some of the experiments suggest) that these “give if you win” pledges will actually raise money; either they will be binding or people will fulfil their promises.