The Triple Effect of Giving

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Literally 30 minutes before I sat down to write this blog for you, a guy with a massive grey beard and a trolley full of stuff living on the streets in Menlo Park said to me, ‘you got any cash so I can go get some food?’ I opened my wallet, and said ‘no man, I would, but I am sorry I’ve got nothing on me’ In a gracious and loving tone he said to me ‘Don’t be sorry, be happy!’ I smiled and went on with my walk to Palo Alto.

This guy tried to engage me, I accepted his engagement but couldn’t fulfil his material need easily, but somehow I left that moment richer than I entered it, and I hope he did too. Weird how that happens. Even if I was able to give him a couple of bucks I am still convinced I would have created more value in the world than the successful transaction I just made spending $2.50 on this Water at Starbucks! – Man stuff is expensive here in the Silicon Valley.

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Not all things of value have obvious effects that can be measured, quantified and then optimised for but thankfully we are getting better and better at understanding ‘Why we give, Why it feels good to give and Why it is good to give!’

I have spent the last few years finding the worlds leading experts in giving from their relative fields and I what I have found is truly inspiring,

It starts with the homeless man and the Starbucks drink, what is it that makes us choose between giving, saving or spending our money? Well Sarah Smith the Economics Professor at Bristol University says in my interview with her that social endorsement and matching make a massive difference in our propensity to give

Dr Smith takes the time to critique my hypothesis that giving little and often creates the maximum utility and larger one of donations have diminishing returns her CMPO blog. Sarah and her contemporaries within the progressive world of Micro-Applied Economics sometimes known as behavioural economics have come to accept that there is a utility gained though altruistic actions known as The Warm Glow , Coined by James Andreoni. But even in the pockets of progressive economic theories that go beyond the Homo-Economicus rational expectations of human behaviour there is still a belief that the Warm Glow is still largely unaccounted for.

But I travelled across the pond to speak with Jim Doty A Neuroscientist at Stanford Medicine, and Chairman of the Dalai Lama foundation who has spent 30 years studying exactly that – The neuro-chemical effects of altruism on the brain. In my interview with him he unpacks the evolutionary pay off that we receive from giving with altruistic intent that sets off the same reward circuitry as sex, chocolate and drugs and has been proven that a lifestyle of giving can actually help us live much longer!

But does Giving actually have an impact on society or is it just a neuro-chemical indulgence like chocolate, Back in London I met with Michael Green the CEO of the and Author of Philanthrocapitalism who explains the effective use of philanthropy as societies risk capital and that his biggest critique of philanthropy is that ‘we don’t take enough risk’. Giving as a form of capital is about following your passion to use unaccountable capital to fund projects that the government or institutions could not in order to derisk them to allow partners to help the solutions scale and eventually solve the problem.

But that leaves me with a problem, in this world that is moving crazy fast and tech innovation blowing stuff up, what values are important to ensure we are building and supporting the right kinds of infastructure in the data centric, digital age. Dr Lucy Bernholz PhD a member of the Stanford Centre for Philanthropy and Civil Society and author of celebrated shared with me in our conversation that respecting data like you would a friend in conversation is the root of a successful future digital civil society

To top it off, to make sure I wasn’t getting caught in the weeds I met up with long time friend, mother nature herself, Jane Goodall at Windsor Castle no less! To ensure that we weren’t looking at this with too small, or short term a lens. Dr Goodall Impressed upon me the fact that the world has never been in worse shape across the board and that we desperately need a reframing towards a more ‘giving’ mindset. Jane delivers this beautifully with over 1 million young people around the world participating in her program

So then my question is if it so good for us, our social norm and society at large why don’t we do it more?

We are living in times where attention is the economy, we can connect to anything, anytime, anywhere but we only connect to things we become aware of.
Multibillion dollar corporations are experts in getting our attention and helping us build sufficient connection with their products and services that we end up transferring value to them, The consumeristic machine has insane momentum and infrastructure behind it and the Giving Economy has almost NOTHING. This means we have to play the attention game to get giving on our agendas, in the strategic plans for businesses, governments and individuals. Religious gatherings have provided us with many important values and social norms around giving, forgiveness and contemplation for generations and in our post religious society we need to find other mechanisms to instill this vital behaviour into our system 1 psyche as per Mr Kahneman’s beautiful articulation of how we consider decision making in Thinking Fast and Slow,_Fast_and_Slow

There is incredible value in the giving economy, most of which cannot yet be articulated by our state of the art in any of the sciences, however I am glad to see that there are three effects that can be measured, optimized and account for to observe some of the value created in giving’s affect.

1. The True Effect – The Neuro-chemical individual effect of giving with Altruistic intent, measured through FMRI machines
2. The Social Effect – The Social Endorsement Impact of seeing others in your community respond (in a non-competitive, non-transaction focused method) to needs, measured by the viral Co-efficient
3. The Capital Effect – The Societal effect of the capital deployed into the social problem which is best expressed through in an attempt to obtain Collective Aristotlean Eudaimonia

These 3 effects – The Triple Effect of Giving are not present in any other form of value transfer and make every $1 injected into the system invaluable to our society.

I will gladly hand deliver $100 to any person who can provide me evidence that there is a more affective way to spend $1 than gifting it with altruistic intent in a social setting to a progressive, problem solving compassionate project.

NOTE : I absolutely believe giving first and foremost an ‘Affective’ act that creates measurable ‘Effects’. See Affective VS Effective. But I prefer sticking to talking about what can be measured and built upon rather than getting lost in more theoretical debates around unquantifiable causality and value creation, its more fun and we get more done that way:-)

So what are we at Givey doing about this?

Building a habit forming daily ritual giving platform that reminds us to connect with empathy, then compassionately act with kindness in the moment. reframing our experience of the world around us into a more creative, responsive experience and making businesses pick up the tab instead of you or charities

Put simply, anytime you see anything on the internet that moves you we let you donate instantly for free and share that moment with your friends to inspire them to give too.

At Digital Shoreditch in London a few weeks ago I presented the results of our workplace giving experiment with Ogilvy London where we saw 5x the amount of givers and 10x the amount of donations through our ‘ Instant Matching platform compared with any workplace giving solution they have ever used – Pretty awesome! but more exciting than that we observed our first evidence that Givey is working and donations are making ‘The Hop’ through the social networks.

The current online fundraising websites only cater for first order connections as the donation is linked to your friend doing an event it means there is close to 100% drop off past one friendship connection.
Givey’s platform is designed to allow donations linked to digital content to spread like wildfire across the web, unleashing a whole new giving experience for individuals, new revenue stream for charities and new way to engage with employees for businesses! Every donor automatically becomes a mini-fundraiser which creates a new epicentre which allows ‘The Hop’ to occur.

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The amazing fact is that we are beginning to see 2nd order donations of greater value than the first!!! This is no small thing and on the basis of our progress we are likely no more than weeks away from lighting a compassionate fire in our digital worlds which businesses will be desperate to be a part of.

We are taking phenomena like #ALS ice bucket challenge which raised $100m in 30 days and systemising it into a replicable, easy, everyday activity.

That is the Science of Givey as best as I can describe it!
Hopefully one day givey will help me to be able to do more to help the homeless guy in Menlo park without having any cash on me.

Thank you for reading!
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