The Psychology of Donation Boxes

02/24/07 -- Robert Paul Reyes  - “People will not give money if they are thanked in advance or presented with an empty donation box, but will dig deep if they see banknotes, according to a study by New Zealand academics released on Wednesday.

The research by Victoria University of Wellington’s economics department showed that
how much is already in a donation box, the mix of coins and notes, and what sorts of signs
are present will influence how generous the public will be.”

I would have to agree with the results of this study. When I see a street performer with an
empty donation box, I’m hesitant to give, even if I think he’s really talented. I don’t want to
call attention to myself, by being the first one to make a donation. What if the guy really
sucks, everyone will think I’m an idiot when I drop my coin in his hat.

A donation box that’s brimming with banknotes on the other hand inspires me to give. A
street performer might be the worst singer in the world, but if has a lot of loot in his hat,
who am I to go against the verdict of the crowd?

And I definitely won’t give a dime to a beggar or a street performer with a “Thank You”
sign. That’s very presumptuous on the part of the street performer or beggar; he might as
well put up a sign that reads: F*** You If You Don’t Give.

I’m glad I no longer live in a big city teeming with beggars and street performers; I feel
guilty when I don’t give and I feel like a schmuck when I do give.

 Return to previous page