Who Wants Free Money?

Last year each resident of Alaska received a check for $1,884.00, just for living in Alaska. In fact, every year since 1980 residents have received some amount from what is known as the Alaska Permanent Fund. These are the proceeds from oil and other mineral investments in the state.

But there’s more! When they apply for their annual check, Alaskans are asked if they’d like to donate to a charitable fund to help other Alaskans in need. This year, the charitable fund has raised over $3 million.

And this year, a random test was run on two versions of the “ask.” Half of the recipients were asked to “Make Alaska Better.” The other half were asked to “Warm Your Heart.”

As MarketSmart reports, “Make Alaska Better” asks donors to give to a worth cause.

On the other hand, “Warm Your Heart” asks donors to give because it will feel good.

And the winner was… “Warm Your Heart!” That option inspired 30 percent more donors to respond, and their gifts were 55 percent bigger on average.

This test reminds me of the Apostle Paul, who wrote, “Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.2 Corinthians 9:7

Several years ago, sociologists studied two congregations – one evangelical, one mainline Protestant — to determine how money is “made sacred” in those congregations. In the evangelical congregation, the act of giving itself – the giving of God’s money – was sacred; the focus was on the individual and a personal spiritual life. In the mainline congregation, what the money did – the difference it made in accomplishing God’s work – was sacred, reflecting a more utilitarian focus on the outcome of giving.

Their research didn’t determine which approach inspired more generosity. However, the focus on donor needs (“Warm Your Heart” and personal spiritual growth) consistently and repeatedly out-inspires a focus on the good cause (“Make Alaska Better” and the difference our gift makes) in fundraising tests.

Perhaps a Both/And approach would be the best. In the mainline churches that I coach, that would mean learning more about warming our hearts and seeking spiritual growth through faithful giving.

God Loves a Cheerful Giver
Kevin Spear – https://www.flickr.com/photos/speartoons/