Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Speed Giving, the adaptive unconscious and "gut formation"

A popular consensus tells us that giving will be down in the non-profit sector during 2009, thanks to the economic woes of the nation and the rich. I wonder about that assumption, but we can hold off on the subject for another time.

Here's a question for today: How do people best decide where to place their donations? It seems a good, valid question given the heightened sense of both responsibility and scarcity at work today.

I am intrigued by a short piece from Fred Smith, Gathering President:

In his book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, Malcolm Gladwell tells the story of the purchase of a $10 million sixth century marble Greek statue by the Getty Museum. Having been subjected to a 14-month exhaustive analysis for authenticity by an electron microscope, electron microprobe, mass spectrometry, X-ray diffraction, and X-ray fluorescence, it was pronounced authentic, but not without some doubt.

Thomas Hoving, the former director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York was invited to look at the statue. What happened is the essence of "thinking without thinking" or what Gladwell terms the adaptive unconscious.

Hoving looked at the statue and within two seconds pronounced it a fake.

Another curator repeated the same experience in Greece. More importantly, they were right.

"In the first two seconds of looking - in a single glance - they were able to understand more about the essence of the statue than the team at the Getty was able to understand after fourteen months." Their brains had reached a correct conclusion without immediately telling them how it reached that conclusion. Both men had tapped into the adaptive unconscious.

There are givers who share the same uncanny ability. This is not to be confused with emotional giving, impulsive giving or irrational giving. It is simply judgment located in a part of the brain not accessible to most. It is the innate ability to discern with great speed and reach conclusions that might take others months or years. I have seen very few individuals in my life who have it, but I would put their results up against any other system for giving. In a time when the emphasis is on "strategic giving" with all the systems for analysis that go with it, let's not discount those who have been gifted with this rare ability to see clearly, quickly and with remarkable results.

Fred is a guy I've known and respected for many more years than either of us would want to admit, I expect! And, once again, he and Gladwell are on the money.

I have no scientific research to back it up, but what he describes here, I call the "gut factor."

Some of the most effective donors, in terms of outcomes achieved, come out of their gut with their decisions to give. I have seen the phenomenon here at Central Dallas Ministries many times over the years.

These special donors have advanced our cause and our work more than any others.

It is as if we share in an unusual, but common experience of gut formation!

We know instinctively what works and what doesn't.

These donors pick up on it and fund our dreams and plans.

Partnerships like this are really hard to beat.

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