Nov 212013
 

In this podcast you’ll hear the economist John List, who is no stranger to this blog’s readers, give us the gospel of fundraising — what works, what doesn’t, and why. List and economist Uri Gneezy write about the science of charitable giving in their new book The Why Axis: Hidden Motives and the Undiscovered Economics of Everyday Life (which you all helped name, sort of). Gneezy has also appeared previously on Freakonomics Radio, in our podcast “Women Are Not Men,” describing his research on gender and competition in Africa and India.

Transcript:

Stephen J. DUBNER: Steve Levitt is my Freakonomics friend and co-author. He teaches at the University of Chicago.
DUBNER: Hey, Levitt so we are going to do something today that we’ve never done before on this program, which is beg. We’ve been putting out this podcast for I think almost 4 years, all free, and now we are going to ask people for some support. What do you think of that idea? Is that nuts?
Steve LEVITT: Good luck.
DUBNER: (laughs!)
LEVITT: Sorry to give things away for free and then ask for money later.
DUBNER: So Levitt, you’ve worked with some nonprofits trying to raise money, what’s a good response rate? Let’s say I send out 1,000 mailers trying to raise money to help poor children around the world, what’s a good response rate?
LEVITT: So if you are sending those out cold to people who have never given you money before I think something like 1%, 10 out of 1000 would be a really good number.
DUBNER: But our audience is a little bit different, right, anybody who is listening to this is not a cold call, so if we were to ask people to send money to make Freakonomics Radio and keep it free, what kind of response rate do you think we’d get here?
LEVITT: You know, what’s hard here is that the mechanism for getting people to send is more difficult. I would say once a day someone comes up to me and says, hey I love the Freakonomics podcast I listen to it while I jog or while I work out in the gym. I think if you could actually get someone in mid jog or on the bike at the gym to be able to press a button and send money directly to us, I think you’d actually do ok. The chance that someone’s going to get done with their run, go back and take a shower, and then log onto a computer and give you money? I think that is really close to zero.
DUBNER: So, you think we’ll raise close to zero dollars?
LEVITT: I do, actually.
DUBNER: So, can I just tell you, listener, not Steve Levitt, this is a fantastic opportunity to prove a relatively smart person totally wrong.
LEVITT: Prove me wrong. I love to be proved wrong.

 

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