No “thank you” gifts, please

My third Cracked article, about gift giving, ran a few days ago.

While not gathering over a million views, it did reach a modest 10th most viral Cracked spot for a while.

Everybody loved the article.

Well, almost everybody:

Christmas Troll 1

Christmas Troll 2

  Other than that, everyone really liked the–:

Christmass Troll 3

Right. So a few self-proclaimed “men’s rights activists” took issue with some “anti-men” jokes in the article (that weren’t even mine to begin with), and decided that the best use of their Christmas holidays was to post personal insluts on my social media accounts. Yeah, keep fighting the good fight, guys. The oppressed men of the world need your help to survive the tyrannical reign of modern women.

As mentioned, one of my entries didn’t make it into the final article. Now, just as I have done in the past, I share that cut entry with you. Happy holidays.

“Thank you” gifts make people less altruistic

What we think

Say you run a charity, collecting donations for homeless people, war veterans, or your upcoming wicked block party. How do you get people to donate more money? Sure, you can appeal to their sense of compassion, but let’s face it: Most people are selfish. Plus there are countless other charities out there, and some of them even arrange better block parties.

You need something to elevate yourself above the rest. So you announce that everyone who donates will get a free pen (because you’ve forgotten that you live in an age where computers exist). People like free stuff, so surely they will be more likely to give you money if they get something in return.

At the very least it can’t hurt, right?

The truth

It can hurt. Two Yale researchers put the practice of offering thank-you gifts to the test. They ran no fewer than six separate experiments, because why stop after the first one like a quitter?

The result? People who were promised a thank-you gift in return for their donation were actually likely to give a smaller amount than those expecting no such gift. This result was unaffected by factors such as familiarity with the charity, desirability of the gift, or the sexiness of the researchers’ outfits (I’m reading between the lines on that last one). People would always donate less when expecting a thank-you gift.

So what the hell is going on? Do people hate free pens?

The researchers believe this behavior is due to a so-called “crowding out” effect. Put simply: thank-you gifts mess with people’s feelings of altruism. Donors become uncertain about their motivation for donating—are they doing it because they’re good people, or just to get that coveted pen? Yes, the human mind is that easily confused.

This research also found that the effect can be diminished by re-framing the gifts to appeal to people’s sense of altruism. For example, you could put your charity’s logo on the gift and tell people that them using it will help spread awareness of your cause.

Or, you could just be a cheapskate and keep all those precious free pens to yourself. You know you want to!

12 thoughts on “No “thank you” gifts, please

  1. I just loved your Cracked article! I thought it was so, SO GOOD!!! And your charity entry here… phenomenal. I’d like to hear more about that deal… could be a whole article topic itself (charities).

    The negative feedback- wasted energy. One of the many things I appreciate about you Daniel is your positive energy.

    By the way, you’ll see a little less of my comments here- but please know that I read each and every one of your posts plus your outside articles. I’m taking some time away from active participation online. I’m still around, just in the background.

    Happy New Year to you and your lovely bride! I think 2014 is going to be a good year.


    • Yeah there are plenty of things to dig up on charities…including shady fronts that posed as charities.

      As mentioned, I can’t claim much of the credit for the last Cracked article, since it was mostly based on entries by Alan, my co-writer. But in either case, I’m happy you’ve enjoyed it and the entry here. Always happy to know someone enjoys reading the stuff.

      Agreed. I don’t get into the negative debate loop with angry posters. If anything, I find them amusing.

      Yeah I’ve noticed you didn’t update your blog in a while (I check up on it every now and then). No worries about not commenting, we all need our breaks from blogs occasionally!

      Thanks, and have a kick-ass new year as well. I also think 2014 has some good stuff in store.


  2. Now I know why I throw those free mailing label stickers in the trash and give them NOTHING… any so-called charity that can afford to send me nonsense I don’t want doesn’t deserve my hard earned money…. now for a spiffy pen I might feel differently LOL.
    I’m glad I don’t do that #twitter I don’t like mean people… and those guys were being mean to my favorite funny blogging dude.


    • There you go. Pens are the answer to all charity challenges!

      As for social media – I’m afraid misguided anger isn’t exclusive to the online world. If anything, the “activist” guys feel like the world is being mean to them.


  3. “re-framing the gifts to appeal to people’s sense of altruism”— Like many things, it always comes down to the spin, doesn’t it?

    I can’t believe those obnoxious comments you received. Some people lose all sense of decency online. I thought your responses were perfect though!


    • That’s right, it all comes down to being a good salesman. Even charities aren’t immune.

      As for the commenters, I honestly find it sad (and, paradoxically, hilarious) when people get so outraged by comedy sites that they feel the need to resort to personal attacks. You gotta love the Internet.


      • Yes, I had a troll trash my commitment to public health because I posted an entry on funny clips of guys getting hit in the jewels (clips they themselves submitted to America’s Funniest Home Videos). Guess he forgot it was a humor blog. Wonder what he’d think about your walking-into-glass-doors post or your falling-off-treadmills one…


  4. I work in a development office, so we face this issue of whether to thank or not. In higher ed, there is an obsession with alumni participation (the percentage of alumni who give). Basically, they feel they need to bribe some alumni to make a donation so they can be counted toward participation-revenue be damned!


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