The Hidden Math in Your (Almost) Donations

The Hidden Math in Your (Almost) Donations

You learn a lot about people when you ask them for money. Whether you’re selling a product, raising money for a cause, or just need a boost, the way that they react to your request says a lot about how they think about themselves and about money in general.

A non-profit that I’m on the Board of, and that I’ve been helping to build for the past year, recently launched an Indiegogo campaign. It’s their first public fundraising effort, and coincides with the organizations public launch after a year of pilot projects. In the days following the campaigns start, I’ve sent out over 150 personal emails to friends and family asking them to contribute. Some have, and I’m ridiculously grateful to them for doing so. Others have not responded, but as I only emailed a week ago and it’s a 30 day campaign, I figure they might be biding their time. But many, far more than I expected, have responded with kind and enthusiastic emails congratulating me on the launch, and then adding that while they’d love to support, they just can’t afford to right now.

But I have trouble believing that, mostly because $1 makes a difference.

For some reason, we have been conditioned to believe that if you can’t give a lot, you shouldn’t give at all. Donating $1 has, somehow, become worse than giving $0.

Perhaps, it’s a matter of ego. When you donate nothing, no one sees. When you donate a small amount, there’s a tiny chance that someone might notice and critique the gift. But then, you really can’t say that you’re not donating because you don’t have the money. Rather, you’re not donating because you don’t think that the money you do have is good enough and, by extension, you think that you aren’t good enough.

Which is really depressing, no? Because whether or not you choose to support a cause shouldn’t be predicated on external judgements of your donation. Plus, as donations can be given anonymously, what you really must be afraid of is judgement from yourself – the feeling that you should either do better, or not do it at all.

Well, I’m here to tell you that that’s stupid.

Your $1 or $2 donation is just as important as a $100 gift. It might not go as far or do as much, but it does something many times greater than what your $0 gift would have done.

Next time you see a cause that you care about, but decline to donate towards because you don’t have the money, consider what ‘don’t have the money’ really means. If you really can’t afford it, than that’s perfectly fine, but if the cost of your coffee this morning can go towards changing someone’s life, wouldn’t you rather do that than wait in a line at Starbucks?


If you have a dollar burning a hole in your pocket, please consider contributing to the Onwards campaign! Onwards alleviates poverty by supporting entrepreneurs in building tourism based businesses. Every donation is tax-deductible and goes towards your first trip!