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The Secret to Tripling Sidewalk Charitable Contributions

A number of years ago I saw a fascinating example of someone who’d (inadvertently) increased his charitable collections from perhaps 1-5% of the passers by to nearly 100%. 

Here’s what happened:

A 60-ish man wearing a charity’s colorful vest stood on the sidewalk outside a Starbucks and waved his donation can toward the dozens of pedestrians passing by.  For ten minutes no one

A young woman shouldering a padded camera bag approached and struck up a brief conversation. The man nodded in apparent agreement and she began scribbling onto a small journalist’s pad.  Backing away from him, she knelt by the curb across the sidewalk, and focused her large SLR camera.

Then something fascinating happened:A passing woman spied the yellow vest and averted her eyes — and looked straight into the camera.  She immediately froze.  She surreptitiously reached into her purse, turned, then walked back to the man in the vest.  She glanced at the photographer, oriented her posture for maximum exposure to the lens, smiled. . .  and donated.

Immediately thereafter, a man in an expensive suit exited Starbucks.  He passed by the can, walking toward the street — and noticed the photographer. He spun around, returned to the man, balanced his briefcase and hot coffee in one hand, and dropped some change into the can, angling his face subtly toward the photographer.

Few now passed without donating.
A queue formed of people waiting to contribute.

The lesson?

Many people will contribute because it’s the right thing to do.  Apparently even more will do so if they know that they are being watched…


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