Pay It Forward

In the March 16th Sunday Edition of the New York Times, they ran an interesting article about “The Science of Paying it Forward,” highlighting the connection between witnessing generosity, being the recipient of generosity, and being generous.

Have you ever been at a toll booth or in a drive-thru line and your toll or order was paid for by the car ahead of you, then you in-turn paid for the next person? That’s the concept around the study reported on in this article. The study included more than 600 participants from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, a crowdsourcing internet marketplace where users advertise tasks to be accomplished in return for money. Enlisted participants were assigned to play a game in a group of 150 people, but could only participate if they received an e-mail invitation. Those who got the invitation would receive base pay and a bonus. Each participant who received an invitation had the opportunity create an additional invitation for an anonymous stranger if they gave back the bonus.

Some participants received an anonymous donated invitation, others witnessed donated invitations and some didn’t witness or receive anything. The study concluded that “observing an act of kindness is likely to play an important role in setting a cascade of generosity in motion, since many people can potentially observe a single act of helping. But we found that it was receiving help that sustained the cascade as it spreads through the group.”

In today’s times it can be a struggle for nonprofits to raise money and secure donations. Maybe the pay it forward concept and conclusions from the study can be applied to the nonprofit world.

RE-Volve, a San Francisco nonprofit, is one example of an organization using a pay it forward approach to secure funding.  They are building a program that allows community centers to make the switch to solar power with no upfront costs. Read more about their project and pay-it-forward funding approach here.

How could your nonprofit benefit from these findings?

Pay it forward

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Megan Wall

In my role as Project Specialist with Campaign Consultation, Inc. I work primarily on projects with the Corporation for National and Community Service, specifically AmeriCorps VISTA outreach initiatives. Prior to joining Campaign Consultation, I worked in Liberia on two different USAID-funded initiatives. Prior to that, I was the Micro-Grants Manager for a USAID food-security initiative where I created and executed agri-business training and monitored micro-grant usage. Read more.

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