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Heart vs. Head: What should prevail when making charitable donations?

By Sarah Georg  |  
February 24, 2022  |  
4 minutes read

In the last century, there has been a great focus on the dichotomy between the left and right brain functions.
If you are more heart-driven, you are said to be ‘right-brained’. This side of your brain is associated with intuition, impulsiveness and thoughtfulness when making decisions. As such, you are more likely to follow your gut feeling when deciding which charity to support.

If you are more head-driven, you rely more on the left side of your brain which is associated with analytics, objectivity and deliberation. Instead of fulfilling personal goals, you wish to contribute to systemic changes to have a global impact. The majority of people focus on personal attachments when making charitable decisions.
So, which one should prevail when making decisions concerning your charitable donations?

There is no right answer to this question, as there are both pros and cons for following only your head or only your heart. Across all of the research and studies that were looked at, HNWI are overwhelmingly driven by their hearts as opposed to their minds. This idea is confirmed when looking at their motivations for charitable giving. A significant proportion of HNWI’s giving is based on personal values (75%), whilst for only a minority, personal factors are not as important (5%) (High Net Worth Philanthropy, 2016). However, a downfall of funders over-relying on their emotions is the potential manipulation by charities wishing to increase donations. In the UK, there has been a wide use of emotive charity advertising, referred to as ‘poverty porn’, which relies on guilt-tripping individuals to donate to their charity. This can be highly detrimental not only to donors who end up donating money to an organisation they barely know, but also to the beneficiaries who are only represented as helpless victims. It is important to keep your head on when encountering these appeals.

In contrast, head-driven funders wish to contribute to systemic changes to have a global impact. It is of course important to have a certain emotional affinity to the charity or cause you are supporting. Nonetheless it is important to remember that there are considerable discrepancies within the third sector. Many people think that real compassion is something that comes from the heart, not as a result of dispassionate calculation. However, Effective Altruist researchers have calculated that some charitable organisations are 100 times more effective than others. As a result, donors should carry out at least some research before giving. If the goal of a charitable donation is to improve a societal objective, it seems logical to check if that charity is in fact effectively doing so.

Thus, there is no ‘right’ answer to this question, one must use both their heart and their head when making decisions. It is better to keep a balanced approach when making charitable donations to be sure you are taking in consideration all elements. Personal attachment and belief in the charity’s work is of course essential to feel connected and engaged to your cause, nonetheless common sense and light inspections are always appropriate and helpful!

In fact, this research on head versus heart allowed us to create and develop a unique Funder Questionnaire at Maanch. This questionnaire has been designed to help every donor understand the motivations behind their donations. In doing so, we wish to encourage our funder community to better understand why they care and support certain causes, and then match you with relevant projects to fund. As a holistic impact-platform for philanthropy, Maanch is your perfect solution. We provide the ideal middle ground between emotional and strategic giving. Maanch promotes a wide variety of projects and charities addressing pressing issues whilst also using technology and data to measure and verify that each donation is used effectively. Our vetted projects available on the platform are measured against the UN Sustainable Development Goals, as a universal benchmark for global development. This allows you to decide which cause to focus on and measure the impact of your donation against tangible results. Whether you are interested in systemic changes or personal causes, Maanch has the solutions. Take our Funder Questionnaire here to find out what type of funder you are and which causes to support.

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