Flipping the Philanthropy Switch

Flipping the Philanthropy Switch
Elizabeth Dunn, speaking at PopTech 2010 courtesy Kris Krug via Flickr

The Life You Can Save is focused on increasing pledges and subsequent donations in the fight against global poverty.  On a broader level, we are concerned with changing the culture of giving so that people think and feel that using one's discretionary income to help the world's poorest people is a responsibility like helping one's family or neighbors in times of need.  In order to help us achieve our goals we are engaging in research relationships to learn more about what messaging, in general, best facilitates donations and 'pledging' to fight global poverty effectively. We will also be looking at individual differences, psychological and demographic, that may affect responses to messaging.  For example, do some people respond more from the head and others respond more from the heart?  How can you appeal to these different people?  We also hope to be helpful to social psychologists in advancing their academic research that leads all of us to a better understanding of human behavior.

Lara Aknin, Ph.D. at Simon Fraser University
Peter Singer, Jon Behar and I are very excited about the contacts we have made with researchers in the fields of social psychology and economics.  These researchers include an international consortium led by Paul Slovic, out of Eugene, Oregon; a group led by Elizabeth Dunn, (author of Happy Money), including her graduate student Ashley Whillans who runs a project entitled "Flipping the Philanthropy Switch" at the University of British Columbia; Lara Aknin, at Simon Fraser University (also in British Columbia, Canada); and Dan Houser and Luigi Butera from the Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science at George Mason University.  Together, we hope to learn more about how to spread interest in effective giving, and how to make giving more enjoyable.

Paul Slovic in Switzerland after attending the Subjective Probability, Utility, and Decision Making Conference of 1973
In the days ahead, you will be seeing requests to participate in research questionnaires through our newsletter and on our Facebook and Twitter pages.  We hope you will participate.  Of course, we also hope to get non-donors and non-pledgers in our sample and you can facilitate that by forwarding the questionnaires onto your friends, colleagues and acquaintances.  We will also be doing more experimenting through our Giving Games that Jon is facilitating.  This is a long-term project, but we would very much appreciate your help in our collective fight against global poverty, and participating in research and encouraging others to do so is one great way to contribute.  Thanks in advance for your participation.
Charlie Bresler
Charles Bresler
Charlie Bresler is currently starting his second full-year as Executive Director of The Life You Can Save. Concurrently, he also works as a consultant to senior management at The Men’s Wearhouse, a company that he was President of and has been with since 1993. Charlie is interested in ways he can help fight the devastating effects of global poverty and is very interested in systemic solutions to social inequity and environmental problems.

Charlie lives on Bainbridge Island, Washington with his wife of forty years. He has two children, a daughter, Kayla, who is works in a non-profit that seeks to increase low-cost housing units in the Seattle area and a son, Noah, who is an organic farmer on the Olympic Peninsula, Washington. Charlie spends his free with his wife hiking and enjoying nature and movies, on his son’s farm, and with his daughter and her husband.


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The Life You Can Save is a movement of people fighting extreme poverty. We hold that an ethical life involves using some of our wealth and resources to save and improve the lives of those less fortunate than us.

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