Charity study

In this project I tried to answer the question: How can we increase donations for charity in a public space? Charity organizations are always looking for ways to reach out to people and convince them to donate money for their cause but sometimes it's hard to keep people engaged enough to donate with a good story alone. Research shows that people have a higher chance of donating when it is convenient, when they are influenced by their peers and when they have attention to spare. Together with a team I conducted a study on how to design a public donation pole that gets the most attention and donations from people. We placed the pole in a public space, analyzed people's interactions with it and tweaked the design accordingly.

The donation pole was placed next to coffee machines around a university campus. The consensus was that students would come by in groups (creating peer pressure), they would have enough attention left to spare while waiting for their coffee and they would have loose change to donate (convenience). To attract more attention the pole had a speaker that played sounds like encouraging phrases, wailing sounds or random sound effects. The photo at the top of the pole also varied between having happy and sad faces. Lastly, the pole was either translucent or opaque so that money already in the pole was visible or not.

My team and I observed interactions with the pole from afar. Often we would approach people afterwards, explaining our study (and asking permission to use their image and data) and asking about their thought process. Our study found that charitable behavior increased when friends were around to discuss with and follow their example. Any persistent sound, regardless of message, was effective in drawing attention. Uplifting and hopeful photos on top were more effective in convincing people to donate. Lastly, seeing money already in the tube encouraged people to donate, more so than seeing an empty tube or not being able to see the inside at all.