Elaine Fogel

donors-oxytocinOK, fundraisers and nonprofit folk… how far would you go to get your donors to give more? Would you consider using modern marketing techniques that many retailers use?

What if you had the option of using Aroma, Touch and Words to stimulate giving? Curious?

According to a recent article in The Nonprofit Times, Russell James, III, Ph.D., a professor of personal financial planning at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, tested the effects of aroma, touch, and specific words on charitable giving. His findings are surely fascinating. 


According to The Nonprofit Times article, “’Charitable giving is rewarding, activating the reward centers in the brain like when people receive gifts,’ said James. ‘But (giving) is also uniquely involved in the oxytocin-rich social attachment brain reaches. This hormone is used in maternal and romantic love.’ Charitable giving, said James, creates a ‘synthetic family’ bond between the donor and the beneficiary organization. ‘Charitable giving is a social act that can take the place or use the same mechanisms as the extended family,’ he said.”


An experiment involving dosing donors with a nasal spray of oxytocin led them to give more.

Human Touch:

Using human touch to stimulate oxytocin, followed by a small gift also increased charitable giving.

Giving Language:

Half of those in James’ study got the phrase “make a gift” in an informational document about a charitable gift annuity. The other half got the phrase “enter into a contract.” Of those who received the gift phrase, 29% responded, while only 13% of the contract group made a gift.

In another study, half of the respondents got the “make a gift” phrase in relation to a charitable remainder trust, and the other half received “make a transfer of assets.” The results were similar: 27% for “gift,” and 14% for “assets.”

Bottom line? It looks like treating your donors like family works!

Would you ever promote using oxytocin to promote giving? What about human touch and a gift?


Learn more about using small donor gifts.


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