Monday, December 21, 2009
My hypothesis is that everyone wants to be part of a success. Announcing that it already is and then completing the project allows others to purchase (via donation) the good feeling of being part of it. "Yes, wasn't that project great? I'm glad I gave to it." You can imagine the conversations over coffee in the church narthex. My friend wondered why the leadership didn't set a higher target, and if they should. I responded no, you should underpromise and overdeliver. I think you can overdo that, as biasing one's expectations downwards leads over time to people expecting overdelivery.
We know from economic experiments that social influence on charitable giving is an important factor. I also noted that his church collected donations by placing jars in front of the sanctuary and having people bring the money forward. Nobody wants to be seen not standing up, particularly when the pastor has just told you everyone else gave more than expected. The combination of the method of collection and signaling others' donations were good incentives to get others to also give.