Katy Davis ’12 on Using Behavioral Science to Promote Charitable Giving

The Colloquium on the Behavioral Science of Philanthropy

Tugging on the heart strings has traditionally been an effective way to solicit charitable donations, says Katy Davis ’12. But behavioral science research is helping organizations get a more detailed picture of why donors give and how best to craft appeals.

Davis, a managing director at ideas42, spoke to students at the Yale School of Management on December 5 as part of the Colloquium on the Behavioral Science of Philanthropy, a lecture series sponsored by the Center for Customer Insights. Ideas42, a nonprofit organization that uses insights from behavioral economics to help solve persistent social problems, engages with organizations across all sectors.

One frequent focus, Davis said, is helping organizations better understand potential donors’ decision-making processes and the best ways to devise effective giving platforms and options.

Sometimes that means understanding the role of emotion. A recent study, Davis said, looked at how donors respond to information about a charity’s effectiveness. The study revealed that adding information about a charity’s impact, as measured by scientific research, into a marketing mailer had little impact on average donation behavior. On average, donors who saw this additional information were no more likely to donate than when they only saw an emotionally moving story about a beneficiary of the charity’s program.

However, a closer read of the results reveals that people with different giving patterns reacted differently to these types of information. Donors who previously gave in small amounts were less likely to give when scientific impact information was included in the mailer. Donors who previously gave in large amounts, on the other hand, were more likely to give (and give more) when scientific impact information was included, Davis explained.

Such results suggest that organizations should move beyond a “one-size-fits-all” approach, Davis said. Changing small elements in a solicitation’s context can shape donor behavior, and equally important is taking into account how new behaviorally-informed approaches—from goal-setting tools to curated lists of charities—help donors make more informed giving decisions.

Katy Davis '12, ideas42: Colloquium on the Behavioral Science of Philanthropy

About the Event

Applied correctly, behavioral science has the potential to change the game of charitable giving. Katy Davis ’12, managing director at ideas42, visits Evans Hall to discuss how her firm is helping charities better understand the thought process behind giving and working with employers and giving platforms to create moments for potential donors to inform themselves about charity options and better plan their giving.

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Speakers

Katy Davis '12

Managing Director, ideas42

Katy Davis is a Managing Director at ideas42, where she specializes in economic mobility and education projects. As a student at Yale School of Management, Katy conducted research that applied insights from behavioral science to microfinance and...

Katy Davis is a Managing Director at ideas42, where she specializes in economic mobility and education projects. As a student at Yale School of Management, Katy conducted research that applied insights from behavioral science to microfinance and savings products. Previously, she worked at Glass, Lewis & Co., LLC as a mergers and acquisitions analyst. She also served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Okakarara, Namibia. Katy graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Reed College with a BA in Mathematics and holds an MBA from Yale School of Management. She enjoys jokes.