Blog post

What I learnt from talking to over 100 Giving What We Can members

4 min read
Jul 20, 2015
Giving What We Can now has over 1000 members, representing many different walks of life and nearly 50 countries. As Director of Community, one of my aims is to get to know as many of these people as possible. I want to learn about how and why they came to join Giving What We Can, and see what our staff can do to support them in their extraordinary commitments. I took on the role in February, and since then I have had the pleasure of speaking with over 100 recently signed up members. A couple of weeks ago I booked a few days off from Skyping with members and used the time to look back over the conversations I’d had so far. I’d like to share with you some of the things I found!

Why do people pledge?

We’re naturally interested in why people choose to donate a significant amount of their income to others, and our blog has highlighted individual stories in the seriesWhy I give’. One of the most interesting things I’ve been learning about is this: why do members choose to take a pledge, rather than make a private commitment to give 10%? I found that, in nearly all cases, people gave one or more of the three following answers:

  • “Taking the pledge acts as a commitment device”: this was the most common explanation I heard. Choosing to give 10% of your lifetime income is a long term commitment, and many people find that it’s easy to forget internal goals as time goes on. By joining Giving What We Can, you make a public commitment, and have more accountability, so you’re more likely to stay on track.
  • “By joining I might inspire others to join”: this was the second most common reason given. By joining you can signal your support - you add your name to our list of members and it makes it easier to explain your giving to others when you are part of an established group who are all doing something similar. Indeed, some of the members I spoke with had already decided to give away 10% or more before they heard of Giving What We Can, but they saw that by joining they could encourage others to do so too.
  • “I like the community aspect”: for a smaller group of members, joining was a way to become more involved in a community and to meet like-minded people. For most of these, community was closely tied to their feelings about commitment, since giving as part of a community can help motivate you to achieve your aims.

Community and chapters

Another of my focuses during conversations was on finding out how well connected members were to other people in the community (both Giving What We Can members and people interested in effective giving more broadly), and to gauge their interest in meeting other members. So far, I’ve found that nearly all of those members I spoke with wished to be connected with other members. Most of these either already knew some people within the community or had a local chapter or meetup group they planned to check out. However, there were a number of people who did not know anybody in the community, and did not have a chapter within travelling distance.

Combine the demand for chapters among current members with the fact that the most common way people hear about Giving What We Can is through word of mouth (and 27 out of 80 members I asked told me they had interacted with a local chapter before joining) - this suggests local chapters and meet up groups are really valuable. Even small and informal meetup groups provide a place to come together with others who care deeply about improving the lives of others.

If you think you may be interested in starting a local chapter or meetup group, you can go here and Jon, our super friendly Director of Outreach, will get in touch (or feel free to email him directly at jonathan.courtney@givingwhatwecan.org).

Interested in knowing more?

Unfortunately, my insights are so far limited to a relatively small group of our members (though hopefully I’ll get to meet lots more over the coming years). If you’re still curious, you can easily find out more about who our members are, where they come from and when they joined. Our dashboard summarises information collected when a new member signs up, you can find a full list of our members here, and read the stories of some of our members here.