Katy Milkman at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania suggests that Mondays, first days of the month, New Year’s Day, birthdays, many holidays, and other “temporal landmarks” are a great times for humans to make changes.
Dr. Milkman’s “Fresh Start” theory posits that moments in culture that we all celebrate (such as New Year’s Day), personally important moments (such as birthdays), or generally accepted times to transition from one type of activity to another (such as beginning a workweek on Monday), are great opportunities to tackle new challenges or do something specifically that we might have otherwise been putting off. For instance, starting the habit of going to the gym during the first week of the New Year. Or, deciding to eat more healthily when we turn 40. Or, digging into that big project at work first thing on Monday morning.
The idea is that these “fresh start” moments – these times when we are encouraged to feel differently about our energy, our focus, our ability to change – are opportune times to change habits or change behavior.
I was thinking recently about Dr. Milkman’s research about the potential of these temporal landmarks to encourage generosity. Two immediate ideas came to mind:
- While many institutions reach out to donors on their birthdays, almost all do so to simply say, “happy birthday” – a nice stewardship touch to be certain. But what about delivering a more specific message inviting the donor celebrating the birthday to make a gift as they start their next year on the planet?
- Many development leaders understandably view the month of January and, even into February, as a period where little to no solicitations should occur. The thinking is that, “we have just invited our donor base to be supportive through multiple channels during the months of November and December and, so, during the first weeks of the New Year we are more quiet.” But, what if we utilize the first week after New Year’s Day as a giving opportunity for those who didn’t respond to the season of giving invitations. The appeal would utilize the “fresh start” construct by communicating a “New Year, New Generous You,” message.
I’m certain there could be other, more creative applications of the “fresh start” construct to nudge people toward behaving more generously.
Maybe that would be a good thing to brainstorm with your colleagues. . . this coming Monday.