Does Goal Setting Increase Giving?

Learn from GlobalGiving Chief Product Officer Kevin Conroy as he explores the effects of goal setting on philanthropic giving.


What We Tested

Past research suggests that making a goal can increase commitment and successful completion of the task. We wanted to test this in a charitable context by seeing if setting a budget goal for giving could positively impact giving.

Our Big Question

Does goal setting increase donors’ philanthropic giving?

Why It Matters

Setting a budget is a key aspect of household finances, and setting a specific budget for giving back could have several positive effects. For example, various studies show the links between altruism and improvements in individuals’ health and well-being. ​​Additionally, by making giving more frequent and intentional through budgeting, donors are more likely to think critically about the kinds of charities that they want to support. We hypothesize that intentional giving will lead donors to support higher-impact and more effective charities.

Our Method

GlobalGiving launched an experiment with donors that asked them to set a “giving goal” as a part of their new year’s resolutions at the end of 2018. We asked donors what causes they were most interested in, what kinds of things they typically spend money on, and what goal they would want to set in light of their other needs and wants. Donors could then set a giving goal and were prompted to achieve it by starting a recurring donation to a selection of projects that aligned with their interests.

The Ultimate Outcome

More than 150 people created a giving goal, with an average monthly giving goal of $98. This is significantly higher than GlobalGiving’saverage monthly recurring donation of $25. By the end of the year, 14 people achieved their giving goals for 2019! Although we would not call this an overwhelming success, it did help donors be more intentional and thoughtful about their personal philanthropy.

Make It Yours

Have you asked your donors to consider their overall budget and how personal philanthropy might fit into it? If not, doing so may be a good way to encourage giving. Of course, it’s important to recognize that each person’s finances are different and that setting a giving goal will likely involve giving to multiple charities, not just one. By asking donors to think more critically about their giving, we are also inviting ourselves to be held accountable to our mission and to continue finding creative ways to effectively serve our communities, which is something to celebrate.

Goal setting helped donors be more intentional and thoughtful about their personal philanthropy.

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