People do not always donate in line with their intentions. Research shows that people intend to give more than they actually do. For example, an online survey of 500 people revealed that respondents thought most people should donate 6% of their annual income to charity, which is double the average household giving rate. Giving in the US is also extremely seasonal, with around 30% of giving taking place in December, and 10-12% of all giving in the US happening in the last 3 days of the year.
Part of the reason for this seasonality in giving is that the holiday season and the end of the tax year both provide moments of increased salience for donors. What if donors could be reminded of other salient moments throughout the year when they intend to be generous but fail to follow through on that intention?
Forming if-then plans is a highly effective means of following-through on self-directed tasks and reducing an intention-action gap. If-then planning begins with the identification of relevant opportunities which initiates the pursuit of a goal. An if-then plan is then formed as a response to the following prompt: If [opportunity] arises, then I will [respond in this way]. What if key events throughout the year could be recognized as opportunities for giving in this way? “When Mom’s birthday comes, I’ll give to breast cancer awareness. Every year on Thanksgiving, I’ll donate to my local food bank.” Committing those intentions as a “Giving Calendar” for the year might help donors seize these opportunities for generosity.
Setting future intentions also seems to be a particularly effective approach to generosity. Research shows that we are more likely to commit to being generous in the future. Additionally, research indicates that the warm glow that comes with generous acts may be capable of being recycled---so a donor feels good both when scheduling the donation and again when transacting. More research in this area is needed, but it is a promising area to build on.
Ultimately, the objective of a planning solution is to help potential donors remember to act and seize opportunities when they arise to increase the likelihood that they will give.