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Friday, April 10, 2015

Nudging Stewardship Ideas

A variety of wild and crazy (or not so wild and crazy) ideas that come out of reading Thaler and Sunstein's book, Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth and Happiness.

--Always suggest a giving level and/or increase to provide an anchor for givers. That anchor is more easily understood in terms of dollars than as a percentage of income. Don't be bashful about how high the anchor is.

--Take advantage of our natural aversion to loss. Periodically point to specific possible losses if people don't give. We tend to think that this is demotivating for church givers, but I don't think so. It works for televangelists and public television campaigns. I think people will pay attention if we note that air conditioning might not be available this summer based on the current level of giving.

--Give people "mandatory choice" options on estimate of giving cards. Create cards that allow people to mark, "Yes, I will give," or "No, I won't give." Don't make comfortable apathy the default choice.

--Remember that defaults are implicit endorsements. If our (unintended) default is "not giving," then we are providing an implicit endorsement to that default. And that is precisely how it works in most congregational giving. People must choose to give. The default is to do nothing. Construct stewardship tools to change that default.

--Defeat "pluralistic ignorance." Be sure that people know how many people in the congregation are giving and provide some contextual information about how much people are giving.

--Take advantage of the "spotlight effect." Remember that people believe their actions are tightly and regularly scrutinized by other people, even when that is not the case.

--Take advantage of the "mere measurement effect." Remember that simply asking people if they will give is one way to encourage them to give.

--Create automatic estimate of giving cards based on the previous twelve months of giving. Tell givers that this will be their estimate of giving unless we hear about an increase.

--Create events where higher commitment people interact and nudge one another. Get the generous people together as often as possible. And always give them chances to talk with each other about their giving and their hopes for the congregation.

--Make feedback to givers more frequent. Monthly contribution statements are better than quarterly statements. Quarterly statements are better than annual statements.

--Increase salience. Be clear and immediate about giving impacts. Connect offering opportunities with images and reminders of potential recipients. In this age of projectors and screens in sanctuaries, project images of happy children during the offering time.

--Overcome the money illusion. Remind people that one dollar in 1975 is equal to $4.52 in 2015. Twenty dollars per week in 1975 is the same as $90 per week in 2015.

I hope to have the chance to test these ideas in a variety of congregational settings. If you try any of them, I'd like to hear about your experiences. And I'd love to hear more wild and crazy ideas about stewardship for actual human beings.