It’s the season of giving and a time of year when Americans traditionally make charitable donations. With more than 1.5 million nonprofit organizations across the country, there’s plenty of choices for where Americans can donate their dollars.

But just last year, total charitable giving dropped by 3.4%, according to the Giving USA Foundation.

"Often when people don't give, they say something like, 'how could my $5 possibly help this enormous problem facing the world?'" said Michael Norton, Harvard Business School professor and co-author of “Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending.”

"So the feeling that it sort of drops in a bucket can prompt people not to give," he said. "So, when we're thinking about encouraging people to give, we're really trying to think about how do we increase that feeling of connection and increase that feeling of impact."

Meanwhile, two Harvard University researchers say they have cracked the code for motivating potential donors to give. Together, they created Giving Multiplier, a research-based matching system that promotes both effective philanthropic and charitable giving and the world’s most effective charities.

"In one case, you can spend $50,000 helping one person, or that same amount of money help 100 people, or even closer to 1,000 people with the surgery," said Joshua Greene, Harvard University psychology professor and co-founder of Giving Multiplier. "People in the in the U.S. are much more likely to feel a kind of personal connection for people who are suffering from blindness here, and yet the money can go much farther in other places. And so how do you deal with that?"

Could this new method of philanthropy become the future model of giving?


Joshua Greene, psychology professor at Harvard University and co-founder of Giving Multiplier, a website that aims to help people make more effective donations

Michael Norton, business administration professor at Harvard Business School and co-author of “Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending”