Thursday, January 25, 2018

Capture a Photo Finish for Senior Donations

Rates of charitable giving of money increase with age up until about 75 years, at which point the rate does decrease. Studies at Texas Tech University and Erasmus University conclude that this decrease is not due directly to deterioration in health, due somewhat to decreases in cognitive abilities, and most of all due to a drop in attendance at religious services, a drop that could itself be attributed to deterioration in health and decreases in cognitive abilities. It is at religious services where many solicitations for donations of money are made.
     Less carefully tracked by age cohort are contributions of used goods for resale by charities. As seniors downsize their belongings, there are opportunities for nonprofits to profit. Taking firm hold in year 2017 was the notion of “Swedish death cleaning,” a process described as cleaning your closets as if there’s no tomorrow: When a senior accepts the inevitability of death in the future, they also might confront thoughts about family needing to dispose of all the clutter left behind.
     Researchers at Pennsylvania State University, Ohio State University, and University of Texas-Austin find that a barrier for people in giving away items to charities is the sentimental value attached to the items. The resistance comes from concerns, often subconscious, that disposal will lead to forgetting important events in life associated with the items.
     The researchers then went on to identify a technique which successfully dissolved the resistances when the issue was sentimental value rather than the remaining everyday usefulness of the items or the hassle of arranging for the donation. That technique consisted of encouraging potential donors to take photos of the items before giving the items away. Perhaps surprisingly, this technique had no effect on willingness to sell the items rather than donate them.
     Based on their findings, the researchers propose that nonprofits soliciting contributions of personal belongings:
  • When holding donation drives, use text like, “Take a photo of your items before dropping them off so you can keep the memories while losing the clutter.”
  • At drop-off centers, offer to take photos of items in good repair which are likely to have sentimental value, such as stuffed animals, clothing, and athletic equipment.
     Research findings from Boston University and University of Pittsburgh suggest a technique to supplement these: Have staff from the nonprofit look at the photos and acknowledge the sentimental value each item has for the donor.

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