‘Windfall Giving’ or ‘giving when you win’ is a newly-identified theory of philanthropy being tested by the Cabinet Office’s Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) that could ‘move the needle’ on giving.
Based on just-published pilot research1carried out at Bristol University, evidence shows that giving, like comedy, can be all about timing – people are three times as likely to give if they are asked before they receive a windfall than when asked after.
Another recent study2 based on two field experiments shows that asking people to commit to giving in the future rather than straightaway also increased giving. In the experiment donors were asked to “increase giving now” and compared with a group asked to “increase their giving in two months”. Those asked to delay their increase were more likely to give, and to give more.
Michael Sanders, one of the researchers behind the Bristol University study and now on secondment to the BIT, explains: “Windfall giving is essentially ‘giving when you win’ – be it the lottery, on horse racing, or when you receive a bonus from work. This can be through pre-commitment – for example, signing up to ‘Give 1% of my bonus if I get one”, or “All of my winnings over £10,000”, for example. This would allow the source of the windfall to make the donation on the winner’s behalf quickly and simply, making it easier and more rewarding to give. We see there is potential for windfall giving to become as mainstream a concept as payroll giving.”
The early study carried out by Sanders with colleagues David Reinstein and Gerhard Reiner used low level ‘wins’ of £20, and Sanders is now looking to test the theory in the field working with City companies around employees’ bonus.
“We are keen to work with partners to explore the potential of this new type of giving. We want to carry out Randomised Controlled Trials over a number of months leading up to bonus time to discover what is the most effective way to ask for donations. Our finding could influence the future of charitable giving in the UK and elsewhere,” says Sanders.
The reasons behind the research are manifold: on the negative side trends shows giving has flat-lined, with fewer people donating more and young people less likely to give today than their parents were at the same age which could lead to a 30% fall in giving in one generation.
More positively research shows giving is good for charities, business and donors.
Forthcoming research from Southampton University3 shows giving by employees through work schemes increases productivity.
The 2011 study by Michael Vlassopoulos and Mirco Tonin found that giving a group of employees a ‘social incentive’ to give, in the form of a small donation to charity, increased their productivity by as much as 20% compared with a group that weren’t offered the same incentive.
Global insurer Zurich have also found that people whose employers give them the opportunity and support in giving through the workplace are more satisfied with their work.
Sanders says: “The Cabinet Office Behavioural Insights Team has recently successfully trialled simple and cost effective initiatives to help people stay up to date with their tax requirements, with surprisingly powerful results - and we think that similar mechanisms may work for encouraging philanthropy. We’d like to engage with corporates who could help us develop these ideas.”
If you’d like to partner the research contact Michael Sanders at The Cabinet Office on 07557 143574 or by emailing Michael.Sanders@bristol.ac.uk
1. Reiner, Reinstein & Sanders (2012), Give When You’re Winning. Evidence from a field experiment. (Working Paper)
2. Breman (2012), Give More Tomorrow. Evidence from Two Field Experiments. Journal of Public Economic, Vol 95pp1349-1357
3. Tonin & Vlassopoulos (2012), Social Incentives Matter. Evidence from an online real effort experiment.(Working Paper)