Earlier this week, I received a message from an old friend from college, asking me if I would donate to a Great Strides charity walk she was taking part in this spring. Great Strides is raising money for Cystic Fibrosis, which is a cause very close to my friend's heart. Back when I was teaching, I had a student in one of my English classes who had Cystic Fibrosis, and so I've seen first hand the importance of medical advances for CF. So, for a variety of reasons, I was pleased to donate to my friend's walk.
Generally, I have a basic rule-of-thumb amount that I plan to donate to any particular charity. Having that amount of money in mind is a way of using anchoring to my advantage. (Anchoring is a cognitive bias wherein our brains hold onto the first price point we come across and have trouble deviating from it. It's why a $50 bottle of wine sounds like a great deal when you see that there's a $100 bottle also on the menu. The $100 bottle gives you an anchor price of the maximum you could spend on wine, even though a $50 bottle is a pretty primo vintage itself.)
In any case, I've been studying anchoring for quite some time, now. I understand that completely irrelevant numbers can affect how much we are willing to pay for something. I understand that credit card companies allow us to make minimum payments because it means were less likely to pay off the full amount of the card, meaning we owe the company the sweet sweet interest they live off of. I have somehow managed to make a bit of a career based on my understanding of things like anchoring and other tenets of behavioral economics.
So, I am well aware of how important it can be to have a personal anchor--like my basic rule-of-thumb donation amount--already decided before any money changes hands.
However, when I went to my friend's donation page, I found several suggested amounts larger than my rule of thumb. Since I am just as much a sucker for inertia as the next person, I found myself clicking on the lowest donation denomination before I even looked to see if it was possible to manually enter in my usual amount.
If this had been for anything other than a good cause, I might have stopped myself there. I'm big on taking second and third thoughts when it comes to spending money.
But this time around, I figured the anchors they were providing were for a great cause. I could certainly afford the higher amount, and I figured this was a really low-key way to add a little oomph to small mitzvah.
This is one of those times when laziness and human nature can be used for the forces of good. Way to go, anchoring!
If you would like to join me in donating to my friend's Great Strides Walk, click here. I know she would truly appreciate it.