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The Closer You Get to Goal, The Easier it is to Raise Funds

The RWRFC's Academic Advisor Michal Strahilevitz, chaired associate professor of marketing at Golden Gate University, shares highlights of "A Race to the Finish: Nearing Fund-Raising Goals Increases the Rate of Donation", a paper presented at the Behavioral Research in Management Conference at U.C. San Diego.

Cynthia Cryder, George Loewenstein and Howard Seltman, of Carnegie Mellon University, examine the effect of nearing fundraising goals on donation rates. They find that as charities move closer to reaching their fundraising goals, donations increase.

They propose that this phenomenon occurs in part because efforts at the end of a process feel more substantial. The boost in motivation as the fundraising goal approaches is analogous to the burst of energy runners often experience running the last few feet of a long race.

Based on their research results, Cryder Loewenstein and Seltman suggest that fundraisers divide large fundraising goals into smaller pieces.

In extending their findings to the domain of athletic events fundraising, the research of these scholars also has practical implications for those seeking sponsors for marathons, walkathons and bikeathons.

Sometimes when one signs up to participate in a fundraising race, the task of collecting sponsors is seen as an even bigger challenge than the race itself. Fundraising organizations might want to tell those participating in such events to 1) create intermediate goals that they can communicate to people they are approaching for pledges and 2) not give up, because it will likely get easier to sign up new sponsors as they get closer to their overall fundraising goal.

For example, if a runner is hoping to raise $10,000, the first person they ask to sign on might not be so motivated, particularly if they are informed that they will be the first to make a small dent in this large goal. Instead of emphasizing the $10,000 goal early on, they could stress to potential sponsors how their contribution will help them reach a lower milestone -- e.g. their first thousand dollars in pledges.

Knowing it will get easier to get pledges the closer one gets to one’s final pledge goal should make the overall task of collecting pledges seem less daunting.

About the authors: This research was carried out by a multi disciplinary team of scholars. Cynthia Cryer is a doctoral student in Decision Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University. George Loewentein is a Professor of Economics and Psychology at Carnegie Mellon University. Howard Sultman is a professor of statistics at Carnegie Mellon University.