Seth’s Blog: Cutting through Singer’s Paradox

Understanding people’s motivations for giving and helping out others:

  1. CLOSE & NOW: (…) Many times, we act generously or heroically because to avoid doing so is to risk being shamed. (…)
  2. GRATITUDE : Even though it might not be at the top of mind, the fact is that once we pull someone out of the pond, we anticipate that they will thank us, and so will the community. (…)

And this is the problem every good cause outside of your current walk to work faces. They are trying to solve a difficult problem far away. They’re working to do something that is neither close nor now. And often, because the work is so hard, there’s no satisfactory thank you, certainly not the thank you of, we’re done, you’re a hero.

The challenge for real philanthropic growth, then, is to either change the culture so our marketing psychology is to donate to things that are neither close nor now, and that offer little in the way of thanks, or to create change that hacks our current perceptions of what’s important.