Monday, January 26, 2009

Just Giving Public Signals

From the generic to the specific. Invented figures. You are prompted to contribute to a good cause by a solicited group email that links to a public page showing individual amounts. You go to the site, and see just one donation there, showing £50, and the date suggests it was placed there a while ago. You know from history of similar appeals that most individual contributions tend to be smaller. So you wonder whether that first entry is discouraging subsequent ones. You genuinely want to contribute, but how much? Five options:

1. Give £50 like the first person. This further reinforces the possibly unfair suggestion that £50 is the expected going rate.

2. Give more than £50. Appeases your own conscience; but if the signals theory is correct, this may be even more likely to dissuade later small contributions.

3. Give a sum that is the usual typical contribution, say £10. This could now bring in the others who were prepared to commit that smaller figure but who didn't want to publicly set the precedent.

4. Give an intermediate sum, say £25. This might still perform the signalling function of "it's ok to contribute less" but at the same time it keeps the ballpark figure higher.

5. Do nothing, or contribute offline. May seem the easy option, but it doesn't provide any helpful signal. The charity still appears in the same position as at the start, with a single lonely contribution apparently discouraging followers.

This is not a web issue, the same question often arises where a short list of donations is passed around with any office collection.

So what did you do?


Rana said...

Number 4?

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